“Sticks and stones can break my bones . . .” or Heart Guard: It’s Not Just for Puppies

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When our children were living at home and we had puppies living among us, we used to use a preventive medicine called Heartgard®. It’s pretty easy to coax a puppy to ingest his Heartgard®. Heart-guarding our own hearts and those of our children is a different matter. This verse from 1 Peter describes what we are up against:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.
Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Much of what the world calls entertaining, or even educational, is actually the result of our adversary, the devil, prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.

When I was a girl, my mother wouldn’t even let me say the word that is the last syllable in the clothing brand Oshkosh B’_____. I am grateful. Hearing the Lord’s Name taken in vain pierces my heart. I am grateful that practice was not regular fare in my world when I was a child. God is my Creator, my Savior, my Helper, my Lord. His Name is precious. It is no expletive–I don’t care how surprised someone is or how mad she is or how much he wants to emphasize his point.

I recently read an old piece of literature to my Wednesday morning class of ladies. One of them lamented the loss of vocabulary in modern writing and speech.

A few days back I was working with someone on a project completely unrelated to our business. I will call the person Evinrude (how’s that for concealing his or her identity?). Evinrude and I were both very tired of dealing with the business dealings of another person. Evinrude said that person . . . (well, I wouldn’t think of repeating what Evinrude said). Then, Evinrude said, “I’m sorry, but that is all I can think of to say.”

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

A Stick, Some Stones, and a Bright, White Shell
A Stick, Some Stones, and a Bright, White Shell

So went the ditty we said as children. There’s not a word of truth in that last part. Words can hurt. We all know what it feels like to have unkind words spoken to or about us. Truth is that words can hurt us in other ways, too. The words other people say can hurt us. The words we say can hurt us. The words we hear can hurt us.

I remember one time when John and I went on a homeschool convention trip together a few years before he married. We stayed at the home of people we knew nearby. By the time we left, our hearts were sore from the words we had heard–words that seemed to be an everyday part of their speech–words that were never spoken in our home.

So, how does this kind of speech become an everyday part of someone’s life? It’s a heart-guarding problem. First, we hear words. Then we hear them some more. Then we get used to them. Then we start to use them. Eventually, we may not know how to speak any other way.

You know what? Now that I think about it, I remember that Evinrude heard words like that at home as a child.

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.
Proverbs 8:13


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  1. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” James 3:5
    I pray to be filled with the spirit to bridle my tongue, that the cause of Christ would not be hurt and my testimony would be great. I grew up in the world and my speech would put truck drivers to same. 🙁 I thank God how He has changed me. I no longer curse!!! I struggle at times when I’m not in the spirit, but God has changed my heart that it pierces my heart when I hear or say anything bad. It usually humbles me immediately and I confess and apologize right away. Thank God for the new creature I am in Him!

    • We are all sinners in need of God’s grace and we all struggle with something (often many things). I am thankful for your every victory in this area, Stacy. You have a sweet and humble heart.

  2. I too lament the language that I hear so flippantly used in what seems to be nearly every circle anymore. I pray that I will NEVER become accepting of it, and that it will always cause me to cringe. The fact that my husband never used/uses bad language was what first attracted me to him!

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