Words Hurt

In the biblical book of James, chapter three, James provides the reader with a short commentary on the human tongue, its inherent power and the responsibility each of us has to control our speech.  “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” Although small in size, the bit is used to control a very large and powerful animal.  Similarly, the relatively small rudder of a large ship is used to direct its path.  James reminds us that it is possible for something very small to wield great power for either good or for evil. 

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”  Here we are called to consider that just as it takes only a spark to set an entire forest ablaze, so a single misspoken word can create great havoc and untold harm.  We who are older are quite familiar with the adage ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.’  We learned that saying from well-meaning parents and teachers who desired to strengthen us to endure the evil and cruel things that children often say to one another.  Although there is a degree of truth to the statement, the reality is that those stinging words uttered by classmates or even family members, had the potential to do great harm and oftentimes did.  These unkind words may not have left a physical scar but the unseen wounds to the mind and heart are far more devastating.  But these wounds are not limited to children.  Adults are equally at risk of great harm from the painful words spoken by others.  Even a strong and confident adult will have to reckon with poisonous words which are fired in their direction.

James continues; “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”  Here we see how the tongue may not only be misused to cause serious harm to others, but when habitually abused, it corrupts a person’s soul and determines the trajectory of one’s life.  James is not exaggerating with these carefully chosen words.  He means exactly what he has written.  The evil which people speak is characteristic of hell and such will be their end if they continue on their chosen course.

And so in these few short sentences we are both informed and forewarned.  Just as the ship is steered by the rudder and the horse by the bit, so the course of one’s life is set by the tongue.  But the ship has a pilot and the horse a rider.  Likewise the tongue is controlled by the speaker.  It is up to each of us to restrain our speech.  Since this is within our ability to manage, James tells us that we will be held eternally accountable for the harm that we cause with our words.  Therefore, we should use our tongues wisely and choose our words very carefully.  In this way we will use our tongue to steer the course of our lives into safer, calm waters rather than storm and ruin.  You think about that.  God bless you and……

See you on the road.

Bob Anton: Christian Motorcyclists Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or baftmny@aol.com