Who ever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words won’t ever hurt me” was
S T U P I D
I was recently in a conversation with some women: bright, intelligent, educated women, about the whole Jaycee Dugard story and one of them says something along the lines of “well I just think that at some level she, Jaycee, must have enjoyed or liked the affection.”
Two things happened inside of my head and heart as I tried to take in what she said with such confidence. One was “What the heck are you saying? You really believe that a twelve-year-old defenseless girl LIKED a creepy, disgusting older strange man touching her much less raping her?! Think about what you are saying woman!” But the other was a weirdly visceral flashback to a time when I was eight and someone said something similar to me. A flashback to a series of events that I have had great healing in so I was surprised at how much of a direct hit I felt.
At eight I was molested by an older teenage boy in our neighborhood and as he was stealing my innocence, my sense of safety and my childhood he was telling me that I wanted this and that it t was my fault because I tempted him on the school bus. I didn’t even know he rode the bus as I was eight and he was in high school. I wondered for years how it was possible that I wanted that and what I had done to tempt him.
I have spent more time healing and recovering from the words, shameful, evil words, spoken to me with authority and power, than I have over the actual physical molestation. The words he spoke that day and subsequent days haunted me for years and tainted every relationship and every decision I made; they tainted my early years as a wife and mother and as a follower of Jesus. Those words hurt me and shamed me more than the physical violation. Those words were a constant critical, abusive “parent” in my head for over two decades.
Words have power. Words can build us up or tear us down. The Bible has a lot to say about the power of words, but here are a few:
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
As Americans one of our most precious liberties is the right to free speech. As a human being we have the gift of free will from our Creator. As a woman and a Christian I do not take either of these freedoms lightly. In many other countries both women and Christians have the fewest rights and certainly do not have a voice or the freedom to speak or the freedom to make their own decisions.
But the right to free speech and free will are liberties they are not license. It is not license to say or do what ever we want without consequence or repercussion.
With great freedom comes great responsibility.
Yes, that boy was given a free will by God to choose to do whatever he wanted with his life. He chose to be a perpetrator in my life. He was also free to say whatever he wanted to me. But that does not mean he is free from the responsibility of the consequences of his actions or words. Hi is fully responsible for the weight of his words in my life. He will also have to bear the consequences of what he did to me. He will have to bear the weight of guilt and shame and the knowledge, one day, of what he did to me. He didn’t count the cost of his freedom to use shame-filled words or his freedom to choose to abuse another human being.
Words have power. Words can bind us to shame more than shameful actions bind us. The tongue is a powerful weapon and we can use it for good or for evil. Our choice.
As human beings we MUST learn to be responsible with our words because words can rob of us our childhood and taint our future. Words tear and rend and hurt. Words can shame.
Or words can:
- be like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones
- be from a wise tongue that brings healing
- instruct, build up and encourage another person
- give life
I am a firm advocate of freedom of speech and freedom of choice but the older I get and the more I interact with people, people who are near and dear to God’s heart, people who are bound by shame because of words spoken over them, the more I am an advocate of responsible speech and responsible choice. I believe we must count the cost of our words and our actions and then be willing to accept the consequences of our words and choices. Both good and evil consequences.
I’m just gonna think out loud with you for a moment because I’ve been pondering this idea as I’ve prepared this post. As I’ve Considered the issues of freedom of speech and the gift of free will, being responsible and counting the cost of our choices, I’ve wondered about God and His choice to give us free will. Was He responsible? Did He count the cost? Certainly He had to count the cost of this choice for humanity and then be willing to pay the price for it right? Certainly He must have known we would fall and that the consequence of our fall would be much greater than our getting kicked out of Eden. The cost He counted and the price He was willing to pay for our freedom of choice and speech was the life of His Son Jesus.
As I’ve been pondering this idea it has made all the more grateful for this amazing gift of freedom but it has also made me more sober and thoughtful as I’ve tried to embrace the enormity of what God did for us in risking it all to give us freedom of choice. Knowing how much forgiveness, grace and mercy God has extended to me when I’ve used my tongue for evil rather than good has humbled me but it has also caused me to be quicker to forgive those who have used words to hurt and shame me. AND it has freed me to accept that those who have shamed and hurt me with words will bear the consequences of those words, but only as God allows and as God sees fit.
The bad news is sticks and stones my break our bones but words can kill, hurt, bind and shame us. The good news is Jesus IS the word that became flesh and walked among us and He took the shame and guilt and pain of those words upon Himself so that we can be healed and free. As THE WORD he redefines the power of the spoken tongue.
I know this to be true because Jesus has healed me from those words that bound me at eight-years-old. I know, without a shadow of doubt today, that I NEVER wanted what that boy did to me. I DID NOT tempt him and it was NOT my fault. It was his fault. But I have forgiven him and I have repented for believing such malevolent and evil lies and chosen to believe the truth that Jesus reveals to me every day.
I don’t know if this is making a lick of sense but it was just something I had to get out of my head and into words.
What are your thoughts on this?