When you were a child at school recess did you ever hear someone say this?... “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” That mantra provided protection, safety, and resistance against the hurtful words of school-yard bullies. Putdowns like, “You’re stupid!” and, “I can’t believe you wore that!” are examples of the way as kids we would hurt each other with our words. As hurtful as these words are when they are spoken from child to child, they exact the most damage when they are spoken from parent to child.

“Hey chubby…how ‘bout another donut?” “Why can’t you be like your sister/brother?” “I can’t stand you…in fact, I can’t believe you’re my son!”

Language like this corrodes the soul of a child like a deadly poison resulting in a slow death of the beautiful spirit within them. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul commands that our words build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child.”

In the course of speaking to your family specifically your children, what will others hear? Do they hear words of support, acceptance and commendation, or do they hear careless words of resentment, anger, blame or even worse, hatred? Paul commands us to replace anger and bitterness with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. To the point, he states that as forgiven people we too need to be forgiving people. Harsh words, a vindictive spirit, and an belligerent attitude are uncharacteristic of a Christ-follower.

Honestly, a word spoken in anger, haste, and carelessness often inflicts the deepest, most lasting scars. The good news is that it’s never too late to change. Mending words like, “I’m sorry, please forgive me” can begin the healing process. Today would be a good time to begin the change?


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