“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve all heard that saying before. You probably grew up hearing insults thrown at you at one point or another, and were told this very phrase. You tried to cope with the insults using things such as the ever so famous, “I’m rubber and your glue” approach. The simple fact is this popular phrase is wrong. Words hurt a lot. Why am I being a downer? Because as a Christian you need to learn how to be kind hearted, but tough skinned.
If you believe Jesus was God, died for your sins, rose form the dead, and is coming back for you then you will likely face some ridicule. Thankfully where I am at we do not face a threat of death for this belief, but there is no shortage of jerks that will twist our beliefs and prepare us up as strawmen to be fed to the bonfire of “logic”. Some people are just going to speak harsh towards us. Our gut reaction is to lash back. We want to make people feel like morons for not believing in what we know to be true. We want to give a little payback.
This is why I start out by telling you that it is ok to feel hurt by others. It should be expected. We need to realize there is pain before we can toughen up to properly deal with that pain. Some people just want to get a rise out of others who hold to a religion. They want to get us angry to prove how flawed we really are. Some people are just out on a hunt to try and pick a fight with people.
Go on a forum were religion becomes a topic of discussion and it will not take long for it to go down fast. Cheap shots get made, debaters began to attack the person rather than the content, and everyone begins to react based off of emotion. Christians are just as bad with all of this. We have kneejerk reactions to atheists who goad us into an argument. We take the bait instantly.
Being in ministry requires some pretty tough skin. It can be unpleasant. We face ridicule from other religions and atheists. We are told we are wasting our time investing everything in our life to something that is a simple fairy tale. We face harmful words from hurt people in the church. Leery eyed disapproval from people with a dissenting theological view. Hurtful words surround us requiring us to have a skin of dragon scales, and yet we also must maintain a sense of innocence and emotion to properly help others with their spiritual needs. We must wage battle constantly over a need to never take anything personally, and yet keep ourselves from becoming the cynic.
Christianity is full of cynics. We’ve been beat up on a regular basis. It is no surprise really. The enemy wishes to steal our joy, and will send others whose joy has already been stolen to tire us out. People can say all they want to you. They can even say things that are simply hurtful, but their words can never steal your joy unless you let them.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. There is such a simple and obvious flaw in that statement. It is true that sticks and stones may break my bones, but the phrase assumes a serious error. It assumes that all we are made up of is bones. Words may not hurt our bones, but they can cut into the very essence of who we are. When you speak ill of me you are not going for my bones, but rather the core of who I am. Rarely are we ever prepared for this level of pain growing up because we are told as children to shake it off. The only defense we can naturally place up is a cynical attitude.
What should be our response? Perhaps we should embrace the emotion and channel it into a healthy reaction. Why is this person speaking to me in this way? What happened in their life to make them so angry and bitter towards even the concept of a God that the very mention from someone sparks such rage, twisting of words, and hatred? Rather than spew back anger and hatred why not pray for the individual?
Pray that you would not hold bitterness towards them in their hatred. Pray that you do not become cynical in life the way they have. Pray you will live your life with real meaning and purpose. Pray you can have a heart of compassion for others. Pray for that person’s soul. A soul that has somehow been hurt and betrayed by someone. Maybe we need to stop brushing of the verbal attacks with saying, “Stupid atheist/muslim/Mormon/etc.” and start trying to care for the individual.
The other day I mentioned how I witnessed to three Muslims while I was in Kenya. At times they responded with anger over some of the beliefs. They were literally upset over some of the things that I personally believed. They wanted to drag me into a pointless debate in order for them to justify why they did not agree with me. I could have responded with forceful debating. I knew exactly what to say to each of their points, and I even indulged in it for a little bit. I tore their points to shreds, but I realized it was not getting me anywhere. The issue was never the difference in belief, but rather a deep seated anger and pain that manifested itself in rage towards something I believed. All I was left with was praying for them.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is the belief of someone who will inevitably become a cynic. Words can hurt, but I serve a God who is a great healer. I’ll take the hits if it means getting to serve Him.