Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.
Do you remember this popular rhyme?
As a child, it was something we said to help protect ourselves from people who were insulting us with words.
We pretended words didn’t hurt us, but we all know that is a lie.
The reality is, words cut like a knife.
I’m reminded of this as I work my way through the Book of James for Lent and study James 3:1-11.
Be aware of the language we use
James is speaking about “taming your tongue” and wants us to know the harm our words can do.
He claims in one moment we are praising God and in another moment we are speaking badly about someone. We need to learn to tighten the gap.
If we want to live like a Christian we have to be careful with the words, we use with people. The words we use should lift people up, not tear them down.
We may think our words have little impact, but the truth is words have a huge impact on ourselves and others.
What direction are we going?
James uses the example of a ship. He reminds us ships are large and are driven by strong winds, but they are steered by a tiny rudder.
We are the ship, and our words are the rudder.
Depending on the words we use, will determine the direction our life goes.
Kind, thoughtful, and forgiving words steer us toward a loving, authentic path of life.
Negative words are just as powerful – but would steer us in the opposite direction – a negative direction.
Think about what direction you’re going the next time you are arguing with someone.
Listen to the words you are using. I bet the more negative words used will add more coal to the fire and make things worse.
Things resolve when the conversation turns more positive.
If we want to live a loving and authentic life – we will not get there by using negative and hateful language.
I believe James is referring to this when he says it’s impossible for salt water to produce fresh water.
The question we might want to ask ourselves is what direction is our ship going and what kind of water are we producing?