There are a lot of walking wounded among us. Perhaps you are one of them. I know I often am. Though we may not be recognizable as “the wounded” to each other or to the casual observer, we are, nonetheless, walking wounded in this world, walking wounded through our days, unnoticed and untreated. Whoever said, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, was seriously wrong. But whoever said, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, clearly understood the power of words, both written and spoken. Words are weapons, we must wield them with the utmost care and consideration. Words have more power than “sticks and stones”, more power than knives or guns. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
Words are a weapon we all have access to and a weapon we all possess in equal measure. However,no background check is required for this most lethal of weapons, as it is to obtain a gun of any kind. Because words have more power than we realize, word wounds are deeper than those wounds inflicted by fists, or knives or bullets. Word wounds target the heart, word wounds break the heart and destroy the soul. Word wounds may be invisible to the eye but the effect is real and the result can be deadly. The broken hearted are all around us, but we do not see them. They walk invisible among us, hiding their hurt on the inside. We see clearly those “walking wounded” with physical wounds; the cast on the arm, the crutches, the bandages, the wheelchair. All these outward signs signal us to give special consideration, to take special care of the injured person. We notice the signs and treat each person as their needs dictate, we make a special allowance for their condition.
Not so with word wounds. Those wounds are invisible to us because they are on the inside. Internal wounds are more painful, harder to treat and harder to heal. Also, because the word wounds are internal, we don’t recognize these “walking wounded” as we encounter them in the course of our own daily walk. They are invisible to us because their wounds are invisible to us. So we don’t treat them as they need to be treated. We don’t make any special allowance. Wouldn’t this be a different place if we recognized our fellow “walking wounded” and “held the door”, so to speak, for them? Gave them that extra measure of kindness reserved for those who are clearly hurting? But usually it is not at all clear, we are masters at hiding our pain, hiding our wounds.
We’ve all been the recipients of word wounds and sadly, we’ve also been the assailant, wounding others with our words. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be”. James 3:10 Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintended, we are the one wounding another with our words. But if words can wound, they can also heal. “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4) “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Prov. 12:18) “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:24) So, this isn’t a new idea, the healing power of words. It’s been known, we just need to put it into practice. Our words will either tear others down or build them up, wound them or heal them. Every time we open our mouths to speak, we have a choice. Such power, and we don’t always handle this God given gift very well.
We can use this power to promote peace as well as healing and reconciliation. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1) Don’t we experience that almost every day in our own interactions with others? “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Prov. 25:11) “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply-and how good is a timely word!” (Prov. 15:23) Our words matter, they make a difference to us and they make a difference to others. A positive difference or a negative difference, the choice is always ours to make. There are many things in this world we can’t control, but we get to choose our words. “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37)
Why is there such power in the spoken word? Perhaps because it has been so from the beginning of time. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) That’s right, God spoke everything we know, everything we see, all of creation into existence. He spoke and it came to be. There is power in God’s Word, both spoken and written. Always was, always will be. “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) “so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
“Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89) “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) God’s words are both powerful and eternal. Since He created us in His image it stands to reason that He equipped us with words as well, and that they would wield as much power as they do in our lives. And there’s more. In Matthew 4:4 we read, “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Food sustains our physical bodies and enables us to grow. In the same way, God’s Word nourishes and sustains our minds, our hearts, our very souls, enabling us to grow in love and mercy, in grace and in kindness, faithfulness, peace; into the fullness of the person He created us to be. Yes, there is power in God’s Word.
Consider this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,2 &14) The Living Word walked among us on this earth for a time. Jesus spoke and people were healed. Jesus spoke and the sea became calm. Jesus spoke and five barley loaves and two fish fed five thousand people. Jesus spoke and Lazarus walked out of a grave. Words have power because our God is the Living Word.
This war of words continues to be waged around us each day, and we ourselves are participants whether we like it or not. While there are some defenses against physical weapons, such as taking cover or a bullet proof vest, the most common defense against hateful words seems to be a hard heart developed over time. While the vest can be removed when no longer needed, hard hearts seem to remain. Hardened hearts while impervious to unkind words, are also more resistant to the healing powers of kind words. I don’t want to live in a world of hard hearted people, I see the results of this every day. We all do. We are all the “walking wounded” to one degree or another. And yet we keep on wounding each other. Our words have power. How will we use this God given gift? Will we use words to hurt or to heal? Will we use our words as weapons of destruction or as instruments of peace? The choice is ours to make every day. May we choose well. Our lives depend on it. It is the difference between brokenness or wholeness, division or unity, cruelty or kindness, death or life.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, to that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Col. 4:6)
sincerely, Grace Day