Has anyone ever said something to you that hurt your feelings? Has anyone ever said something about you to someone else that was relayed to you that hurt? I sure have—many times, but mercifully, only a few I remember. I was reminded of the power of our words (and actions) to hurt others last week as I spoke with one friend who had been deeply hurt by the words of another friend.
The next day in my Bible reading I came across this in Ecclesiastes 8:9 (NIV), “All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own [or to their] hurt.” Intrigued, I checked a few other translations:
New Living Translation: “I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other.”
New Revised Standard Version: “All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.”
Contemporary English Version: “I noticed all this and thought seriously about what goes on in the world. Why does one person have the power to hurt another?”
The Message: “All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that’s going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is.”
I am no expert in the Hebrew language, but I think this verse includes not only physical hurt, but also hurting others with our words. Taking a cue from the biblical writer, I too gave serious thought to what my friend had shared with me the previous day. I was hurt because she was hurt and disappointed by what my other friend had said and done to her.
Earlier I said I have been hurt by both what others have said to me and by what others have said about me that got back to me. Equally important, however, if not more important, is the truth that I have said things to people that have hurt them as well as things to others about people that got back to them and hurt them. The purpose of this post is not just to alert and challenge readers about this matter, but also for me to confess my guilt in this area and commit to doing better myself. I am not referring to having fun teasing someone with no intention to hurt–however, we do need to be aware that sometimes our teasing hurts those we tease (especially when we go too far with it).
I think it also needs to be said that there are times when it is appropriate to hurt a friend with our words. Proverbs 27:6 (NIV) informs us, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Wounds hurt, but sometimes our friends need to wound us with their words for our own good. It has never been pleasant, and I certainly don’t like it, but I am grateful for the times in my life when friends have appropriately wounded me with the goal of helping me. Even though it is meant to be helpful, and perhaps even necessary, a real friend will never delight in wounding a friend even when it is needed.
Back to being hurt by the words of someone, how should we respond? I have three suggestions for our consideration:
Try not to be defensive. It’s easier said than done, but try to let it roll off your back. Sometimes it may be helpful to set the record straight, but generally speaking ignoring it is probably best.
Try not to strike back. I’m confident the person who hurts us with words has shortcoming and faults we could attack, but for the most part escalation will not prove to be helpful.
Try not to be overly sensitive. Again, it is easier said than done–and I know because I am often overly sensitive to such things. But in the end, being overly sensitive just compounds our hurt.
To conclude these thoughts, here are two more verses from the book of Proverbs to contemplate:
Proverbs 12:18 (NLT), “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.”
Proverbs 15:4 (NLT), “Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Forgive me for hurting others with my words and help me do better. Empower me to appropriately respond to those who hurt me with their words. Guide me in knowing when and how to wound a friend for his or her own good. May my words encourage and build up others as well as honor and praise you.
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photo credit: Peter Gerdes <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/83198397@N00/4385822552″>Project 365 – Year 2 : Day 055 : 24/02/10</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>