“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” The latter statement is demonstrably false. Words may not break your bones, but they can break your heart. Words may edify or they may tear down. Words can be helpful or they can be harmful. Words may be judgmental or they may be gracious.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) A man once participated in spreading gossip about a neighbor and later found out the gossip was false. He went to the neighbor and apologized. The neighbor forgave him but challenged the man to imagine what would happen if he took a bag of feathers and released them on a busy street corner on a windy day. No matter how carefully he released the feathers, it would be impossible to re-gather them and put them back in the bag. Just saying, “I am sorry” does not undo all the damage that was done.
Before we tell things we should ask ourselves:
- Is it true? Do I know for sure this is true?
- Is it necessary to tell this? Is it appropriate?
- Is it helpful or hurtful?
- Is it in keeping with the Golden Rule? If I were in the other persons place, would I want it told?
- Is it my responsibility to share this information?
The Greek word translated “unwholesome” in Ephesians 4:29 means “rotten” speech that is hurtful untrue gossip is indeed rotten! Let us speak only words that will build p others and benefit those who listen. “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything!” Silence can be golden!