When I was a little girl, I overheard my aunt describe me as being “built like a Mack truck.” This image has stayed with me my entire life, convincing me that I was large, fat, and ungainly. I have never considered myself slim or petite, despite wearing a size 4 and barely grazing the 5 foot 4 inch mark.
Such is the effect that words, casually tossed around, can have on a person’s psyche. As children, we may have said with bravado, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” But deep inside, we could still be wounded by being called stupid, ugly, four-eyes, or any of the myriad insults other kids might hurl our way.
There are so many ways that friends, siblings, spouses, parents, and children can hurt one another with words. I remember how upset I got when my father said that something I believed was stupid. I know I have said things to my children that I later regretted, such as calling them little brats. My husband and I have also flung some choice epithets at each other over the years. And yes, it hurts when your teenager shouts in your face, “I hate you!”
Words can be the sharpest of weapons. We need to be judicious in our choice of them. As the Bible’s Book of James says, “The tongue is like a fire. It is uncontrollable, full of deadly poison.” (3:6,8)
Thinking before we speak may make the difference in how others see us and themselves. If doing so can save someone from a lifetime of hurt feelings, it’s well worth it.