It is a lie, a bald-faced lie. Your parents may have taught it to you. Even if they did, it doesn’t make it any less of a lie. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words honestly hurt more often than sticks and stones break bones.
Yesterday morning I was struck by the Psalmist’s instructions on how to “fear the Lord.”
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:11-14, ESV)
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart, who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, or takes up a reproach against his friend. (Psalm 15:2, ESV)
For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 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! 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, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:1-12, ESV, emphasis mine)
Stop and listen to yourself…and to Jesus’ words:
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34, ESV)
Sticks and stones may break your bones, and words can really hurt you…and others too. What is your mouth telling you about your heart?