You’ve heard the jingle: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, don’t believe it—not for a minute. Words can do more damage than sticks and stones could ever inflict. Words have power.

Did you ever think that we all carry a loaded weapon with us every day—an instrument that can be used to destroy and injure others as well as ourselves? We do and it is our tongues. In James we read that the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. I’m sure you can remember words spoken to you years ago that hurt deeply, so deeply that the memory brings the pain back as though the words were just spoken.

The Bible has a lot to say about how words can deliver deathblows. Here are some examples.

Harsh words – Proverbs 15:1 says harsh words stir up anger. Harsh words may simply be the tone of voice we use, more than the actual words we say, and they can hurt very much.

Gossip – Proverbs 17:9 says gossip (repeating a matter) separates intimate friends. We may try to camouflage gossip or justify it, but words of gossip carry enormous potential for harm and damage.

Here’s another bit of ammunition that comes from our mouths—quarrelling. Proverbs 20:3 says that any fool will quarrel, but we’re told to abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. Ever notice how people say such hateful things when they’re angry, things they don’t even mean, but once those words are said, the damage is done!

Hasty words – Proverbs 29:20 says that a person who speaks in haste has less hope than a fool does. Words spoken in haste are very frequently the wrong words. We need to think before we speak.

Lying is another way to injure with words. Today lying is quite acceptable—indeed a skill to be admired in many environments. The Bible, however, gives strong condemnation to liars. And there’s no such thing as a white lie. When we lie, we speak words that harm.

Oh, there’s no question about it. We all have the ability to inflict great amounts of pain and suffering by using inappropriate words. We truly need to seriously consider the impact of our words on others.