That just is not true! We said it when we were kids to get back at someone who was calling us names. We had other sayings like, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you.” Sometimes we would just laugh it off, or make up another name and try and out-do the name caller. Just part of growing up in those days I guess. Tell you the truth, the words, the names, all hurt.
We aren’t made of rubber, and words don’t bounce off… they go right to the heart. People still say things that hurt others deeply, by using cruel epithets and racial slurs, sarcasm. The “Yo mamma” jokes get a laugh, but sometimes they are just mean and rude. Words may not break bones, but they can still hurt. “I take it back”, we used to say, but we knew then, we know now, that can’t be done. I remember mom getting out the bar of Palmolive soap, and my toothbrush, to ‘wash my mouth out; after saying something bad. I know it doesn’t ‘wash it out’ and once you say something, you can’t un-say-it? The verbal bullying that goes on in schools, is often learned at home. Columbine stands as a sad memorial to what happens as a result of ‘words’.
“It’s just words” you say, but there is so much more. Jesus in Matthew 15:1-20 confronts the Pharisees and teachers of the law who were concerned about His disciples not washing their hands before they ate. (These were the religious ‘nit-pickers’ of the day.) Jesus accuses them of hypocrisy, because they were more concerned for external actions, than the heart. “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Then Jesus calls the crowd to him and explained… “LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND. WHAT GOES INTO A MAN’S MOUTH DOES NOT MAKE HIM ‘UNCLEAN’, BUT WHAT COMES OUT OF HIS MOUTH , THAT IS WHAT MAKES HIM ‘UNCLEAN’.”
James says, “My dear brothers, take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. James 1:19 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” James 1:26. Then he speaks of the dangers of the tongue in chapter 3, using illustrations of a horses bit, a boat rudder, fire and dangerous animals. How can it be, that with the same tongue that we praise God with, we curse man? How can we use this ‘instrument’ in prayer and adoration to God on Sunday, and use it to curse and swear, tell dirty jokes, on Monday through Saturday?
The encouraging thing about all this is, if we clean our hearts, it will ‘wash our mouth out’. It may take time, but it will be time well spent. There are a lot of discouraged people out there, that just need a kind word, an encouragement, a sincere compliment. Try it.