...may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.
How many times have we said that as children? If some bully was calling us names, we might repeat this phrase, sure in the knowledge that so long as the bully didn't hit us, we would be all right.
Words are funny things. By themselves, they seem ephemeral, immaterial. Fleeting things that once said, can never be recaptured. Of course, why would you want to recapture something that can never hurt you?
Real things, on the other hand--now those can hurt you deeply. You can be injured by something falling on to you from a height. You can be hurt by an assault. You can be damaged by stormy weather, by an automobile accident, by the bite of an infectious mosquito.
Real things--these can be actual objects, or they can be events that impinge on your life. You can be hurt by the closing of the factory where you work. You can pay a price for the dissolution of a marriage. You can be thrown into turmoil by the loss of a parent.
Thoughts are kind of like words, except they're even more immaterial than words. Thoughts are secret, private, hidden away in the fortress of our skulls. That is, they are until they force their way out of that stronghold--as words. Then those private, hidden thoughts can be out in the wild.
But wait a minute! Are words really so immaterial? What about words that can hurt? Are there really such things? How about words like, "I Hate You!" Or, "You're Fired!" Or, "I Hope You Die!" How about all those hateful epithets that we use so often without even thinking? And where's the thought in that?
So, maybe, that childhood rhyme isn't really true after all. Maybe sticks and stones aren't the only things that can hurt us. Maybe words can hurt us every bit as deeply as anything that's physical.
The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about words. They had the word "logos." That's the same word that appears in the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 1, where we read "In the beginning was the Word." The "Word" is Jesus, the "Word" in Greek is "logos." The logos was with God, and the logos was God. Suddenly a word becomes infinitely powerful--the very word is God. This word is something beyond our everyday experience. This word creates, maintains, judges, and can destroy.
Suddenly, you can utter "My word!" and mean "My God!"
When we talk about matters of the spirit, we use words. We have thoughts, ideas, and we express them in words. And they seem pretty safe. But give some thought to this--words are powerful. They move in ways that we may not realize at first. What's the phrase used in so many confessions in the church--"we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed." Ah--there's that progression. thought becomes word, and word engenders deed.
Word moves through that membrane and becomes deed. It shapes what we do. It takes on life of its own and moves about amongst men, and does its work. What thought formed in that mind to be expressed in that word, which became flesh in that deed?
There's a mystery. That just as we can think and speak and act, God thought, and spoke, and his Word became flesh among us.
The world is a lot more than literalists would have us believe. We live in a space that has not only physical and temporal dimension, but also conceptual and intellectual and spiritual dimension. Emotions live there. Demons can be found anywhere, waiting to attach themselves to minds that aren't aware of what lies in wait in the darker corners. Actions in the physical and temporal realm intersect and mediate in the intellectual and spiritual realm just as strongly. Words have a long train; they are attached to more than we might think at first.
We inhabit realms that we can't see with our eyes, but where there is a reality that can affect us just as much as anything we encounter in 3D. We set ourselves up for damage and hurt if we fail to be aware of this fact.