Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sticks and Stones...

"...May break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Why is it that we (society) still teach children something that is so clearly untrue? Perhaps we hope to protect our kids from drowning in the big scary world, but does it really work?

"Life and death are in the power of the tongue." Now that IS true. Just one word can be the difference between freedom and death in a country with capital punishment. For example: "We find the defendant guilty." or "We find the defendant NOT guilty." The very life of a prisoner can depend on that tiny, three-letter word, "not".

Children need to know the truth about words. The careless lie of "words can never hurt me" won't protect them from the violence of mean and nasty words, it will confuse them. And it may even tempt them to bully others (because they think words don't really hurt), or lie to protect themselves from "consequences". Adults too, need to understand the truth about words. A broken bone can be re-set, a broken reputation may be a lifelong disability.

There are many cautionary Proverbs in the bible about the power of the tongue. There are also Proverbs that teach the power of words for good, such as, "A soft answer turns away wrath." We may feel helpless to defend our kids against the cruel words of others, but we can teach them to respond with care and kindness. We can teach them to know their true value. Angry and bitter words do hurt, but the truth is what sets us free.

A kid who doesn't fight back with words might seem a soft target for bullies. Our kids can't expect that speaking nicely to others will mean others speak nicely to them, but the book of Proverbs also points out that "he who digs a pit will fall into it; he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him". In other words, if we lash out at others with our words, we can expect them to "roll" right back on us... someday.

Doing the right thing can seem pretty lop-sided if we are surrounded by gossip and "little" lies. Life won't be "fair" and reward us every time we use our words for good. The question is, will we let our character be defined by those who would drag us down? If we do, then they have won.

If you're looking for a new way of dealing with life's challenges, try reading Making Life Work.

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