What's in a word? Hurt and healing


By Rob Gill
Guest Columnist 

I would like to find the person who coined the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” and ask, “Did you just skip elementary school or any other part of growing up?”   

Words can hurt. The memory of repetitive words of shame or criticism can wound a soul deeply. Christians are not exempt. Jesus’ harshest critics were from the religious stalwarts of Judaism, the defenders of tradition. John Wesley and his brother were the objects of criticism and derision in their day as well. The word Methodist was a term of contempt in the college days of the Wesley boys at Oxford (the one in England). The attention to particular methods of living and study caused some of their peers to make fun of them. But like it or not the name Methodist stuck. Now it means “Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors.” This phrase is the mantra for our worldwide ministry today. 

Words can heal, too. “I am sorry.” “Please forgive me.” “You were right.”  “What a wonderful gift.” 

Those words are signs of grace, and recognition that something or someone has been made right. Words that heal can strengthen ties and build bridges where there was previously ignorance or strong emotions, prejudice and fear. Behind words that heal and help is love. In the Greek its highest form is called agape. This is God’s love. It is the love that heals and binds broken people and circumstances. It is the source of all creation and every good and perfect gift.  It is available to us. It is the best medicine and it can apply to most any situation when it is offered and received.   

John’s gospel tells us that from the beginning “the word became flesh and dwelled among us, full truth and grace.” When the Word enters our flesh, it can heal and help us to love ourselves so that we can grow to love others, even those who act and say unkind words to us or about us. Trust me I can’t do it own my own strength. But the Word living in me and in you makes it possible.  

So let your word(s) come from the Word and live with confidence that you are loved more than you can possibly imagine. You can afford to be generous with words that heal and help. “So let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord my Strength and my Redeemer.”   

Gill is an elder in the Mississippi Conference and serves Poplar Springs Drive UMC in Meridian. This column first appeared in the church newsletter.