I am sure we have all heard the old childhood saying "Sticks and stones may broke my bones, but names will never hurt me." I think every parent teaches their kids this mantra to try and deal with bullying and meanness from other children. But does it work?
My short answer: No.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
People forget what the above scripture says in Proverbs. We have the power in our speech to give life...and to bring death. Is it a physical death? No...though we have seen in recent years teenagers...just children...take their own lives because of the spoken cruelty from their classmates. The words we speak have the ability to build up and to tear down those who are on the receiving end of those words. We also must remember the last half of that verse. We will eat the fruit of our mouths. If we continually speak life and encouragement, then we will receive the same life and encouragement that we have produced in others lives. If we continually tear down and speak death, then we will the same in our lives. To put it simpler: We will reap what we sow.
Our flesh is very human and takes quick offense to any word or deed that would seem to violate our pride or our sense of what is right or wrong. It is funny though, I have the ability to let the words of strangers roll right off my back and not be affected because they don't know me. But...when those closest to me say hurtful and spiteful and mean and angry things it can cut to the quick. So what do I do in those instances?
19 - So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak. slow to wrath;
20 - for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Ephesians 4:26-27, 29
26 - "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
27 - nor give place to the devil.
29 - Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
yeah...way easier said than done, right? We also must remember that Jesus did not come to bring peace...in fact, He said,
34 - Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
35 - For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law';
36 - and a man's enemies will be those of his own household.
37 - He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
Those are some tough words. I don't want those of my own household to be my enemies. I want peace. I want unconditional love among them all. I want acceptance among those of my family. Don't we all? But is my desire for love and acceptance among my family well placed? Only if my desire to love and please the Lord that saved me is stronger and the greater of my desires. When dealing with those that spew hatred from their lips, even if they are "members of my household" I have to take into consideration Proverbs 15:1
1 - A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 - The tongue of the wise uses knowledge right, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
I have to think about the state of my heart and whether I choose to accept and take into my heart the offense against me. Sometimes it is very difficult to reject the offense and pray for the offender. The word does talk about praying for our enemies:
44 - But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hat, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45 - that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
We should be praying for our families, both immediate and extended, all the time. But when they are considered to be enemies...or the behavior does not exhibit the love they say they have, it is difficult to offer prayer for them. And yet, we must.
I cannot know the heart of another person. Only God the father knows the heart of someone. Only God can change a heart and an attitude. All we can do is pray, ask for forgiveness for our parts in whatever the situation is, and know that God is always faithful to His word. He can bring about healing. He can bring about restoration of families.