Sticks and Stones: Be Intentional with Your Words

It’s been a few years, but I still remember the look of pain in my daughter’s eyes. She came home from first grade in a bit of a funk. When I asked what was wrong, she explained that some kids at school had called her a name.

Instantly, I felt my inner “Mama Bear” awaken. WHAT?!?!

Defying every impulse I had to call the school and chew someone, anyone, out for letting some second-grade hooligans hurt my baby, I calmly asked,  “What did they say?”

Her eyes filled with pain.

“I can’t tell you. It’s a bad word.” There it was again…Mama Bear Rising. It took a few minutes longer this time, but I managed to control my it.

She reluctantly agreed to whisper the offensive word in my ear. She leaned close and whispered a word that is simply not allowed in our home…”Stupid.” Then I saw tears fill her gorgeous brown eyes.

I held her close and assured her she is not stupid. I don’t think she’s stupid. Daddy doesn’t think she’s stupid. Most importantly, Jesus, who created her, absolutely does not  think she’s stupid.

“Do you think you’re stupid?” I asked. She shook her head. “Then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, does it?” The waterworks came then.

“But it still hurts!” she cried.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless #BeIntentional |

And she was right. The old playground saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is quite simply a lie.

Words do hurt. Whether they’re simply said without thinking, for a good laugh, or out of raw emotion in the heat of an argument. Once they’re said, they can never be taken back. They can be repented of, even apologized for, but never taken back.

Kids are notorious for being outspoken, a little clueless, and sometimes rude. They are, after all, kids. They are also remarkably resilient. It didn’t take long for Little Miss to bounce back and dive, carefree, into her latest art project. But those words will stay with her for a long time. The next time she is called something unkind (and let’s be honest, it will happen), it will hurt a little more, because hateful words have already left a tiny wound.

I’d like to think that, as adults, we know better. We know to think before we speak and weigh carefully our words. But if my life is any indication I’d have to say that’s not always the case.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21, The Message)

That tells me that (1) my words have the power to bring life to someone or bring death to their spirit, and (2) that I have the power to choose.

If words can bring life or death, we should at least consider the power in them before we let them tumble out of our mouths. If I held a high-powered weapon, capable of killing with a single shot, I wouldn’t wave it around or shoot it off aimlessly. You’d better believe I’d be extremely careful in how I held it, carried it, and transported it. I’d refrain from using it, except when absolutely necessary.

Maybe that’s what the writer of Proverbs meant when he said:

Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. (21:23)

Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything. (13:3)

Observe the people who always talk before they think—even simpletons are better off than they are. (29:20)

Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.(15:2)

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words. (10:19)

For me, it’s a daily struggle, and it’s worse when I’m tired, stressed out, or overwhelmed. (Who isn’t all of those things most of the time?). But I keep at it. Why? Because I want my children to realize the power of their words.

I want them to understand that they possess great power in their words. And with that power comes great responsibility. 😉 Their words can bring life or bring death. They should be chosen carefully…used wisely.

Maybe our grandmas had it right after all… “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”

Let your conversation be always full of grace… (Colossians 4:6)

BeIntentional-250How do you strive to #BeIntentional with your words? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More great reading to help you #BeInentional with Your Words:

The Words We Say



34 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones: Be Intentional with Your Words

  1. Aunt Nancy-

    I teared up and my heart broke as I thought of LM’s situation and thought that my own little miss would one day feel the sting of a “bad word”. I’m glad that you were able to put some salve on the wound (and keep the Mama Bear in check). We love you!

    1. It’s amazing how much more it hurts when it’s your child than when it was you, Ashley. Thanks for the comment. Love you, too!

  2. Hi Nancy! Thank you for taking time to link up to D2I last week! This post is very true – and I remember having a similar experience when I was a kid. Except I said something mean about our neighbor boy after he made fun of me for falling off my bike. My mom also took the “tragedy” and turned it into a learning experience. God bless mamas like you!

  3. Beautiful post, I almost started crying when I read what she whispered in your ear. I wrote about this same topic today at Woman to Woman Ministries. We have to be so careful with our words, it takes a moment by moment surrendering of our thoughts over to the Savior to accomplish this. Thank you for reminding us of this and for linking up at Leaving A Legacy.


  4. Gorgeous words. Ugh, and how they can stick to us for ages and ages. Words do have SUCH power.
    Thanks for sharing from your heart! visiting from the new cozy reading spot hop!

  5. Dear Nancy
    Am I glad I found your blog! You give me things to think about. The way I see it, our words have the ability to bring others in contact with the Resurrected Eternal Life Himself, or it can only come from another spiritual source, the evil one. That one loves to preach a lot of nonsense and can use a myriad of high-sounding religious words!

  6. My heart aches for her. My big girl is in kindergarten and we have dealt with these unkind words too.
    God bless your little girl. What would we do without the bible to guide our children in this unkind world?

  7. It is hard when any age sends words that disparage how you look or your capabilities – I remember those days – I know that mama bear – I have one in me, too – from hurtful moments can come the best teaching – and show the most graceful love. So sorry your little one had those moments. Something beautiful can grow from that moment:)

  8. Very good words you said to her. We never want our kids to be hurt. It does happen though.


  9. A timeless message. My son went through that as an elementary age child. He wore braces for his disability. Luckily the school had a No Tolerance rule for such things and the offender was spoken to and it stopped. He is almost 17 now and I still fear for the things he may have to hear or be called. We pray every night that the Lord guide his heart, eyes and ears while he is away from us.

    1. AnnMarie, I’m so sorry to hear your son went through such a terrible ordeal. It sounds like you and the school handled it well. I pray God uses it to make him a strong and compassionate man of God! Thank you for sharing your story. ~Nancy

  10. I love this post! Words are so powerful and especially hurtful when our children are in the firing line. Stick and stones will break our bones but words can crush or build. “If words can bring life or death, we should at least consider the power in them before we let them…” I love this quote and shared it. So glad I came across your site. 🙂

  11. Great post, Nancy, and powerful scriptures! Words are indeed powerful and we must be responsible and wise in how we use them, spoken or written. I was also reminded of Jesus’ teachings about the heart. Even if we don’t say those {nasty/hurtful} words out loud, if we’re thinking them, isn’t that just as bad {for us}? Thoughts that come from a place of jealousy or bitterness need to be dealt with for our own sake! I know this is true in my life. I tend to “think” more than “speak” but often that thinking reveals a sin that I need to confess before God. Have a blessed week!

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