Recently, I watched the first half of the movie Walk the Line. Many of you have probably seen the life story of Johnny Cash. In the movie, Johnny Cash is twelve years old and his brother has just died after an accident. He hears his father say these words, "The wrong son died." Can you imagine how you would feel? Your brother has just died and your dad utters those words, knowing that you are hearing them. What affect would it have on your life? Maybe you would think that those words would have no effect at all beyond temporarily hurting your feelings. But words take on a life of their own, and can cause damage for the rest of a person's life.
The Bible says in Proverbs 18:2 that life and death are in the power of the tongue. What we say matters. What we speak out into the atmosphere does have an impact.
Have you ever wondered why it is called "cursing" when someone is directing curse/swear words towards you? Could it mean that there is a curse that comes along with those words? I don't know, but people do have a way of living up to either low or high expectations based on what is being said to them. The Bible also speaks of people "blessing" other people with their words. There is a tremendous repercussion of either cursing a person with your words or blessing them with your words. It isn't a neutral arena. You are being touched in some way, whether for the good or bad.
I once was helping a young man in his twenties study for his GED test. He was becoming increasingly upset one evening as he was trying to study from his book. After talking for awhile, he tearfully told me that he had always been labeled by teachers as "dumb" and "slow". Several years had passed since he had been in the classroom, but the sting of those words remained. He still identified himself with those words. As a child or young person, you automatically feel that an authoritative person's words to you are true.
Another example is from my very first year of teaching 2nd grade at a Christian school in Louisiana. I had the most beautiful class of 8 year old children. I noticed though, that one of boys never made eye contact and was very quiet. His teacher from the previous year commented to me that he was "slow". I was surprised by her words about him. I observed him and came to the conclusion that he was actually very shy. Being shy myself, I understood a little of how he felt. When I praised him one day for his reading, his face lit up and he gave me the biggest smile. I tried to praise his accomplishments whenever I could. I would find ways to encourage him and let him know how proud I was of him. At the end of the school year, his mother hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. She had tears in her eyes as she told me what a change she had seen in him that year. He hadn't dreaded coming to school as he had the year before. Either through words or actions that previous year, he had been made to feel that he couldn't achieve success.
What about you? Is there an event that instantly comes to your mind when you think of hurtful words spoken over you? Did someone call you dumb, ugly, fat, skinny, worthless, or perhaps speak swear words over you (towards you) that caused devastation in you? When you recall that time, do you still feel the sting and pain of those words? God wants and is able to remove the pain of that time of your life. What He says about you is very different than what a person has said to you.
The Bible says in Psalm 8:19 that God delights in you. Delight means "something that gives great pleasure". Did you know that this is how God feels about you? If you've been beaten down by words all of your life, that may seem too good to be true, but it is true. Ask Him to show you how He feels about you. He is able to make it clear to you in a way that you will know is truly from Him.
Our tongue has the capability of blessing and cursing. If a young girl is talked to as if she has no value, what will she be looking for when she grows older? She will identify with what is being spoken over her. She will look for a young man who will call her beautiful even if the man is not intending to treat her with honor and respect. But if a young woman is treated as someone precious and valuable, she is more apt to look for a man who also treats her in the same way.
I remember being in 8th grade English class. It was the first time I ever had to do an oral book report. I had no idea I was about to have a life changing moment. I also had no idea how my body was going to react to being up in front of my peers. My face turned bright red and my knees began to shake. My hands shook so much that I had trouble reading from my paper. My voice cracked several times. A few of the kids laughed and then the teacher laughed, too. The whole memory can still have a painful feel if I dwell on it. I remember sitting back down in my seat, wondering what had just happened. I had never given an oral book report before, so I hadn't known that I was going to have such a hard time. But the feeling of not being able to perform in front of my class was devastating. When I am feeling insecure, I still feel like that junior high girl standing before her class.
We do have an enemy that spends a lot of time de-valuing us and lying to us. He is called "the father of lies". Why is he so interested in speaking lies to you? Because he wants you to believe everything bad that has ever been spoken over you and more. He wants to fuel those words until he can devastate you, totally and completely. He isn't interested in just making you feel a little bad about yourself. He wants to DESTROY you. If you've been raised with harshness, then you may be more apt to be harsh with your own family. His desire is to not only to destroy you, but succeeding generations of your children and their children. It doesn't have to continue on for generations in your family line. It can stop with you and with your decision. But you will need His help. We (I'm including myself) are able to grit our teeth and try our best for periods of time, but it takes the power of God to make the change that we cannot do on our own. After all, if we could really do it ourselves just through our own will power, why would we ever need God's help? But we soon find out that our good intentions and efforts can never be enough.
Is there still a deep hurt inside of you about what a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a parent, a friend, or a boss said to you? Get in a place by yourself and pour out your deepest feelings about that time to God. He is really the only one who understands the pain you went through. He is able to lead you in forgiving a person who has hurt you, even though everything may scream inside of you that they don't deserve forgiveness. I've heard it said, and I agree, that holding unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It is really only hurting you.
One of my most painful memories is speaking harshly to my oldest son. When he was about 8 yrs. old, I spoke sharply to him. I don't even remember what I said, but I do remember looking over at him as we drove and seeing tears running down his face. That moment pierced my heart forever. I apologized to him, but it is a moment I wish I could go back and live over.
The Bible says that the tongue is such a little member, but even though it is tiny it is capable of sparking a great fire (my paraphrase). Our words can bring peace and blessing or strife. It is our decision to make and thankfully, one that we don't have to try and carry out on our own.
If you've been hurt by words, find a place to pray and tell the Lord the pain you still experience from those words. Ask Him to remove the sting those words still cause you. He if faithful to do that and to help you to lead someone else in finding that same freedom from hurtful words from their past.
If this feels like it is speaking to you, then I'd like to pray with you, if I may. You are not the person that your (teacher, boyfriend, spouse, boss, parent, relative, whoever) said you were. You are not the words they spoke over you. In Jesus' name, I break the curse of those words and speak life and joy over you. I bless you with the words that Jesus speaks over you. I believe you will hear what He says about you today.
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