Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. I heard this a lot when I was a little girl. I was baffled by it. Words did hurt. They hurt a lot. I wondered why people quoted this to each other when words seemed to be the primary weapon of choice in my experience. As I got older, people just got better at honing their verbal weapons. Now they added the subtleties of sarcasm, passive aggression and gossip. By the time I entered the work force, I was written up by my bosses because of rumors my coworkers started that had no foundation in truth. I couldn’t escape the wordy weapons of mass destruction leveled against me. By the time I got married I thought I had left the oratory battlefield of locution but once again I was mistaken. I was criticized for life circumstances that were out of my control. Hurtful or thoughtless, the auditory utterances of friends and foe alike cut me to the quick.
James 3:5-8 English Standard Version (ESV)
5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell.[b] 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
It’s taken me 40 years to figure out how to guard myself against those insidious weapons of the tongue. It all started with figuring some things out about myself.
- Areas where I had been burned before were extra sensitive.
- If I was in the mood to be offended, I would be.
- Sometimes I enjoy throwing myself a pity party.
- My hurt shows all over my face. This makes it “fun” for people to poke at me just to get a reaction.
- Sometimes people are just joking.
- Sometimes people don’t think about what they say before they say it.
- Sometimes people honestly believe they are being helpful.
- I believed I deserved to be hurt.
- I believed everything they said was true, including the horrible things I told myself.
And most importantly…
- I hadn’t brought my hurts, inadequacies, fears, assumptions, expectations and turmoil before the Lord. How did I expect to have healing, confidence, peace, wisdom or protection against those fiery darts of the enemy?
I had handicapped myself with lies. Lies told to me by others and lies I had told myself. Once I went before the throne of grace and allowed God to speak truth into those wounded places in my soul where the lies had lived for decades, things began to change. My wounds had festered for years. Flaming scars of pain that caused me to lash out and over react every time someone came close to them. Whether the person intended harm with their words or not, I held onto the wounding like a badge of honor. An affirmation of what I thought I deserved. It sounds so ridiculous now to think I handed my enemies the very weapon they used to wound me. I gave them the power to hurt me.
I still get my feelings hurt every once in a while but as I confront the lies I tell myself, the assumptions I make about others intentions and let God heal my hurt places with His Truth, I find the edge of the verbal barrage blunted to mere glancing blows.
I will never be able to eliminate the verbal fencing match that the world engages in. I can’t change other people. There will always be people who use their words to hurt and maim every chance they get. Can I change how those words make me feel? I didn’t used to think so. I do now. Here’s what God taught me.
- Root out the lies
- Figure out what you have allowed yourself to believe that is absolutely false. There are some great Bible studies that can walk you though some practical steps on finding those lies and replacing them with the truth.
- Identify your problem areas
- Figure out where you’re extra sensitive. Our natural inclination is to protect what’s hurt. If we’ve done this long enough, we get in the habit of reacting even when it’s healed.
- Honestly assess what areas you are holding onto because you like feeling that way. I know, no one likes feeling hurt….except when it’s more comfortable than forgiving and letting go. I’m only speaking from personal experience here. Your heart, and its environs, are between you and God. I’m only asking that you give yourself and God a no holds barred look at some of those dark musty corners.
- Choose not to be offended
- Full disclosure, this is the one I struggle with the most. Society as a whole just loves to be offended and I had learned that knee jerk reaction well. Whether someone intends you verbal harm or not, you get to choose how you react. When someone’s words hurt you, you can chose to forgive any offense. It gets easier with practice. I’m learning to recognize when someone is speaking out of their own woundedness, thoughtlessness or fear. I’m also learning to recognize when someone is speaking with the best of intensions.
- Choose to use it for good
- Constructive criticisms and insults used to feel the exact same to me. I had a hard time honestly assessing when people were trying to gently speak into my life or when they were trying to hurt me. No matter what the person’s intent, you get to choose how you use it. If what they said isn’t true, then you toss it. If it is true, then you now have the opportunity to grow. It’s not fun but neither are growing pains or exercise.
- Let God heal you
- I don’t know about you but I held on to my hurts for a lot of reasons. Number 1, I thought I deserved to be punished. Number 2, I liked being a martyr to my pain. Number 3, I believed it wasn’t fair that I had to forgive when those who had wounded me hadn’t been held to account. I could give you more reasons but the end result was that I wouldn’t let God heal my woundedness because I thought it wasn’t fair. I think we can all agree that cutting your nose off to spite your face is a terrible way to live.
- It takes time. Not only because we have to practice believing the truth and trusting in it but because we are often still being wounded while we are trying to heal. Don’t give up. Don’t stop trusting God. Don’t stop believing that you can be healed. Don’t stop! Keep trusting, keep believing, keep practicing.
This is where I’m at. I don’t consider myself among the walking wounded anymore. I don’t run and hide from every human interaction out of fear. I choose to try to understand where they are coming from, use their words as an opportunity for self examination and stand firm in the truth of who God says He is and who He says I am. It’s a practice I will have to keep at for the rest of my time here on earth. I know it’s never going to be easy but it’s an absolutely vital part of my journey. God is a good and patient teacher. He wants us to be able to let go of the wounds and take up the better gifts He has for us.
John 6:63-64 English Standard Version (ESV)
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Don’t take your worth from the lips of another. Don’t hang your value on lies. God gives life and truth. Rest in Him. You are valuable, you are loved, you have purpose. Take His “Word” for it.
Words by JD Iana of jdincs.blogspot.com.
If you want to submit your own story, knowing that you could help others, please submit here.
Click here for a free download to find practical help discovering, identifying, documenting, escaping and healing from abuse.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233