by Jennie Smith
How silly was it that in childhood we used to say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?! We learn from a very young age that our words are powerful and although they may not manifest in physical wounds, our words can cut to the heart of someone and leave permanent scars.
In the last 8 weeks, I’ve been involved in a graduate level rhetoric class. Rhetoric is the study of the art of using words. My fellow learners and I have spent much time reading and discussing the theories of rhetoric – both ancient rhetors and modern day theories. So, for the last two months I have been pondering the impact of words and have been convicted by the fact that I don’t discuss this topic enough with my children.
So, how can we bring this very important lesson before our children without constantly lecturing them about it? Here are some ideas:
Let the Scripture Speak
I love hanging scripture verses in my kids’ bedrooms. I do it without comment, but with a lot of prayer. It’s amazing to watch them notice and then begin to talk about it. My favorite is when they hear the verse in church or chapel and turn to me and wink. The Bible is full of great encouragement to us about our words. Here are some of my favorites:
Psalm 19:14: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Proverbs 15:1: A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 21:23: Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Ephesians 4:29: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Colossians 4:6: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
But there are a lot more. What others do you like? Leave them in the comments below or on our Facebook page!
Give them a visual image
Consider Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Why not go to the craft store, buy some apples and gold paint. Have each child turn an apple to gold and put it in a silver bowl. While they do so, talk about good words and how beautiful they can be. Put your bowl of gold apples on display as a reminder of the encouragement from God’s word.
I also loved this powerful image from Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw0fiTNxB3o
Pouring forth ugly words is just like squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube. You can never get that toothpaste back into its container. Once our words are out, we can’t take them back – they have done their damage.
Be a role model
Why is it OK for me to mutter mean things about the driver who has just cut me off in traffic? Because he can’t hear me? I find that I get frustrated with myself when my children overhear me saying hurtful words. Be careful of what that can teach them, and apologize to them when you have done wrong. It goes a long way in the lives of our children when we demonstrate asking for forgiveness.
Sticks and stones….they certainly can hurt. But words can be destructive. Let’s find ways to encourage our children to speak life into the people they encounter today.
by Jennie Smith