Modern-day ‘sticks and stones’
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
I remember as a child running around the playground and using that as a comeback when people would say mean things. However, as I got older I realized how completely wrong that old saying is when it comes to the words we use.
Looking back, there are a lot of words that did hurt.
The truth is that words can and often do hurt.
I can only imagine, had the Internet been as popular then as it is now, how much more those words would have stuck with me — appearing in my “memories” feed each day. It’s a thought that makes me worry for my own kids as they grow up in the digital age, increasingly confronted with social media and all of its pitfalls.
The truth is that words can and often do hurt. And those words, those hurtful words, are not easily forgotten. They break our spirit. They break our heart. And in some cases, they break our faith.
As digital editor for The Christian Chronicle, I often have to remind myself how glad I am that my faith is not in people, but in God.
It seems to me that we’ve made a transition from screaming harsh words on the playground to typing hateful words on any post we disagree with — whether we know the person or not — and believing there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone or calling out lies when we see them, but sometimes it seems we’ve lost all sense of respect for one another. We’ve become keyboard warriors, ready to pounce on anyone, with no regard for whatever perspective they may have. It seems we’ve lost our ability to think before we speak.
Believe it or not, the Bible has plenty to say about social media. I think particularly about this passage from the book of James: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:8-10)
When you type a comment on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any other online forum, would you stand in a room with your Christian brothers and sisters and use those same words? Or would you find a way to lovingly address whatever point of contention there might be? Or would you realize that the best course of action is to keep your mouth shut?
When you type a comment … would you stand in a room with your Christian brothers and sisters and use those same words?
In short, what would Jesus tweet? Or would he tweet at all?
You see, when we stand face to face, rather than keyboard to keyboard, we can see the humanity of the other person. We can have an actual dialogue, ask questions and come away with an understanding of each other’s position.
When we see each other only as profile pictures or avatars instead of human beings, we stop connecting. We stop loving. We give people a reason to run from us and, in turn, God.
Maybe we need to consider how we can have better conversations and how we can use our words in a loving way toward others rather using our words as stones which will leave scars and broken spirits.