Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Whoever started that statement may have had good intentions, but he or she could not have been more wrong. That is such an untrue statement, and it will not help heal the wounds that words make.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21).
I am currently doing some studying on the book of Job. Job’s friends said a lot of things about him, and they made some pretty serious and damning accusations. And the more the discussions went on, the more they heaped on him and the more they created about him. According to their words, he was the worst kind of sinner, and he deserved every bit of the “punishment” he was receiving from God. Consider that “sticks and stones” quote with how Job felt about the words of his friends:
“How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?”
Job would rather have been beaten with sticks and stones than to have these words thrown his way by his “friends.”
The problem with the friends that is that they were dead wrong about Job, they were wrong about God, and they didn’t know a thing about comforting someone regardless of how sincere they thought their motives were. Listen to what God says about Job.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.
Even later in the Bible, Job is considered by God as one of the most faithful and righteous men to ever live (Ezekiel 14:14,20; James 5:11).
One thing to remember from all of this is that what other’s say about you is hurtful, but what really matters is what God says about you. Job lived his life in such a way that he had the Lord’s approval, even if others were saying bad things about him.
I’ve heard the following quote from several sources, and I leave it for your consideration:
It’s not what people call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.
A final thought, notice that God required Job to pray for his three friends. Even after all the nasty things they said, God wanted Job to pray for them. This coincides with Matthew 5:44, when Jesus asks us to pray for those who mistreat us. While we are praying for our own healing, we must also pray for those who have hurt us.