Tag Archives: lies

Veil of Tears 94: Harsh Words

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With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” James 3:9 NIV

Don’t you just hate that saying, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me,”? It is the most ridiculous lie to instil into children. Name-calling and vicious words wound us just as much as if they did physical harm, and the injuries can take far longer to heal. In addition, the wrong word spoken to us, if we take it on board, can turn our course as surely as the rudder in James’ analogy can turn a whole ship.

Harsh words about my painting from a teacher when I was six stopped me investigating art or the possibility of my own creativity being at all worthwhile. It took nearly forty years to undo that particular sentence’s power over me. A few words are all it takes to break a relationship irretrievably, or to hurt someone so badly that they will never recover. It is also all it takes to hurt ourselves, for once words are spoken or written (and read) they cannot be unsaid or rolled back into our mouths.

In ancient times people spoke words as spells or incantations, believing words to have power. In the Bible we see people and God speaking blessings and curses over others. It is a solemn and precious thing to be able to have an effect on people’s lives by pronouncing truths and promises on their heads. We can say it is all mumbo jumbo, but whatever we hear about ourselves will mark us in some way, especially if it is said by people we love, or who profess to love us. Harsh words, ridicule, insults from a parent or grandparent, or (perhaps inevitably) siblings, are most likely to cause us real pain and form a barrier not only in those relationships but between ourselves and our own sense of self-worth or belonging. Gossip, lies, slander and the tabloid press are also power tools for hurt, causing swathes of untold damage.

Unkind words hurt us right at our very core. They unbalance our confidence, make us doubt ourselves and our value, push us into thinking we are somehow less than others or that we are unsightly or blemished, either outside or in. And because the wounds are invisible, they often go unnoticed and therefore unhealed. Half the time we accept them as truth so deep down (especially if they tap into similar lies told us as children) that we don’t even know that we are swallowing more lies. These untruths are like knots that we need help to untie.

As God’s people, we must pour out gentle words, affirmations and blessings and encouragements, where there have been nasty or vitriolic or untrue things said. This is part of our kingdom work, to heal the world with our tongues. To be the difference, to sing the praise of our fellows in their likeness to their heavenly father. To help each one of us make that connection, so that we can see that we too are lovely. To reteach one another our loveliness as poet Galway Kinnell has it.

When God speaks his love over us of course, we may rely on it, for God’s word always accomplishes what it sets out to do (Isaiah 55:11) and so we can also depend upon his promises, his character and his goodness. For God’s words are always truth and always working for love. Likewise, our speech should be tempered wherever possible with gentleness and grace. There is no more important time to ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” than when we are about to open our mouths.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

69: Slander

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But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me.” Psalm 35:15-16 NIV

Slander (and of course its written counterpart, libel) is a particularly malicious kind of gossip. It is not just unkind, it is deeply damaging. It is like a violation of our personal integrity, an attack on us and on the truth. It is an action devoid of all compassion and empathy, where the mocker ridicules and lies about someone, usually someone defenceless, the charges being hard to prove. Slander is a notoriously difficult issue to settle fairly in court, as hearsay and reputation are difficult to discount or protect, and the root of lies is so slippery.

When we are being spoken about unjustly, and judged harshly, that is bad enough, but to have people actually enjoying maligning us is beyond horrid. Sadly, it happens every day in our culture of celebrity, where the media builds people up only to enjoy making them crash to the ground again. It seems we are rarely taught to think of the consequences of our actions or our hurtful words. As long as the lies are entertaining, they seem justified as a diversion, never mind whether they are true or not.

Our God is a God of truth. He is integrity, wholeness, beauty, goodness and holiness. He teaches us that the truth will set us free, even when it hurts. Lying, to others, about others, to ourselves or him, gets us nowhere. He also knows what it is like to be lied about. People slander and insult God every day. He is mocked in words and actions constantly. His goodness and his very existence are doubted and his creation defiled. He knows what it is like to be spat upon by mockers and yet he still insists that we forgive them, as we are counselled to forgive every sin committed against us.

Paul commends himself and his ministry team for enduring “through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;” 2 Corinthians 6: 8 ESV

Slander is from the father of lies and is unsurprisingly used against those who would follow his enemy. But we are in good company when we are ridiculed and hurt, and our Lord will help us through as we emulate his steadfastness and his gentle insistence on the truth.

You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37 NIV


©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile