When I was in the seventh grade, I was often bullied for my size and stature. At “4’11.5,” all the kids were much larger and bigger than me. Now at 5’6,” but just as small, I look back to those days with sorrow in my heart.
Racing from the first floor to the third floor of the junior high building took all I had in me. Brushing arms with other students and running up the stairs, I was petrified of being late. I never wanted to be scolded by a teacher, and I never wanted to be anything less than perfect.
But on a cool October afternoon, my daily flight up the stairs was blocked. Just as I stumbled to the top, a very tall girl clouded my view.
“What are you doing, elf?” Her voice mocked.
“What?” My lips quivered.
“You are such a puny elf,” She laughed, tossing her mane-thick hair behind her rounded shoulders and the possé assisting her.
“Well, you are—,” My voice began.
“I am what?” She questioned.
“You are to have a nice day,” I resounded. Defeated and broken, I dashed around her tall frame and to my class just seconds before the late bell rang.
Asking to go to the bathroom, I later wept in the stalls when I should have been in class.
The Truth About Words
All my life, I had been told that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words would never hurt me,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t for southern author Amanda Seibert, either.
The power of words matters, and in my recent interview with Seibert, it is clear that not only our thoughts but how we are spoken to impact our mental health.
In her newest book, Mama, Sing my Song, Seibert explains the power of music and speaking affirming words over your kids. While I am a twenty-six-year-old young adult, I advocate for this children’s book, not only for children but for every soul that has ever been hurt by the influence of words.
Truth and Life
As a mother, Seibert wrote Mama, Sing my Song from a deep well within her heart. Believing that every child is uniquely created by God, she claims that “the words we speak over our little ones can shape them for years to come, and that song is one of the most meaningful ways to touch a life.”
Combining God’s truth with words of life and music, we discover the power of words found numerous times in the Scriptures:
Proverbs 18:21 notes, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (ESV).
Ephesians 4:29 adds, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (ESV).
Matthew 12:36 reminds us, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…” (ESV).
Hebrews 4:12 reaffirms, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (ESV).
The list continues, proving the words we speak hold great power—so much power that we will be held accountable for every word we’ve ever said.
To think that God knows every word before it is ever spoken overwhelms me. I cannot fathom how the living Word lives in me, yet so many of us fail to represent the Word with our words every single day.
How Do You Use Your Words?
I was not exempt from facing hurtful words as a child, and I have not been exempt from them as a young adult.
I have not always spoken with the Word of Light within me, but rather the words of this world that bring pain (even when I don’t mean to do so).
But I have learned over the years that young or old, spoken or kept in my mind, our words have such power. Such strength and might… or such pain and heartbreak.
As Seibert writes in the pages of her songs, “My hope is that the truths of this book will sink deep into many young hearts and that years down the road as our kids make big decisions and wrestle with who our culture says they should be, that this song will be stuck in their heads in the most wonderful way– always reminding them of who they are and how much they are loved.”
I believe that God, our Creator and the Father of all words, has a similar mission and mindset for all of us today:
That our words be gracious.
That our words be kind.
That our words bring healing to the hurting soul and life to the broken.
That our words speak life.
That our words defeat death.
That our words shout louder in the face of opposition.
That our words represent the Word of Life to a world in desperate need of Him.
As Colossians 4:6 pens, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (ESV).
Today, if I could encourage you in your words, it would be to let the Word of Life speak through you. And how do we do that? By thinking before we speak, listening before we speak, and knowing who we are before we speak.
Thinking Before We Speak
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (ESV).
If God’s Word is within us and is to guide and direct us, we must think before we speak.
In the example I shared from childhood, everything in me wanted to call my bully a giant. She called me an elf, after all! But the truth of the matter was, me calling her a giant would make me just as evil as her. And we do not overcome evil with evil; we overcome evil with good.
There will be times in this life that you want to react without thinking. Your spouse will hurt you, friends will say things they shouldn’t have, and your parents will tick you off. But Jesus tells us to think before we speak.
For we cannot hear the Word and hide it within us if what comes out of us is far from Him.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, ESV).
Listening Before We Speak
Almost more challenging than thinking before we speak is listening before we speak.
While we might be challenged to stay mute and sulk in our minds, Jesus calls us to listen to those who persecute us or say harsh words. Not because they are right or we are validating what they are saying, but because listening to hear and not responding are two different things.
The best way to pour kerosene on words that have hurt you is to kill them with kindness. This is why Solomon says in Proverbs 25:21-22., “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (NIV).
To hear others’ words when they hurt us is painful. It penetrates the skin, breaching marrow to the bone. But as Seibert notes, “affirming words only matter if they are also true,” and the same goes for hurtful sayings. If it isn’t true, know that what God thinks of you matters more than their opinions.
Knowing Who We Are Before We Speak
If we know who we are in Christ, it will be easier for us to think and listen before we speak because we trust in whom we belong. It is not that we won’t hear their words or that they won’t hurt us, but if we find our identity in someone who knows us, hurtful words won’t root inside our hearts.
Don’t get me wrong. Knowing who we are in Jesus is not easy. It is not easy to look in the mirror and love what you see or remember that Jesus says you are perfectly restored and loved when those around you tell you exactly the opposite. We live in a painful and broken world.
But in John 1, Jesus reminds us that He is the Word of God, the Word of Life, and that Word of Life created you and me. The Word we keep in our hearts is not only powerful enough to transform our view of ourselves but those around us:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5, ESV).
At the end of the day, the Word became flesh and knew what it was like to face the power of words. Even the Word Himself faced blasphemous words on a daily basis. But that Word died on a cross despite the words of others because He knew what the Word of His Father promised Him. He kept His vows to the Father, and the Father kept His vow to Him.
He keeps the same with us today.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/MangoStar_Studio
Amber Ginter is a young adult writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic worship arts, and volunteer roles. She is enrolled in the YWW Author Conservatory to become a full-time author and is a featured writer for Crosswalk,