A hot cast iron skillet leaves a burn behind when it’s inadvertently touched, and the person who did the touching involuntarily jerks back the burned hand…and the brain remembers: touching hot pans brings on pain. A lesson is learned.
But wounds are not always physical. Some of the harshest pain is emotional. When a person lashes out at another through words and deeds, the resulting scars are borne for a lifetime. Every instance of emotional and verbal abuse leaves behind a heart that becomes less and less willing to fully trust, to engage, to live. Sooner or later, even though forgiveness is extended, repeated emotional abuse renders the relationship too treacherous to sustain, and the victim’s brain slowly learns that the only way to heal is to cut ties.
Jesus implores us to love one another…but He did not tell us that we have to be punching bags. Turning the other cheek is an illustration of going the extra mile…of extending mercy to those who hurt us…but there comes a time when we show love and mercy best by removing ourselves from the equation.
Examine your own relationships and study the way you use words. Do you punish others out of anger? Or do you extend mercy? How do you respond when someone hurts your feelings? With deliberate schemes to “get back” at them or “teach them a lesson?” Or do you share your heart with them and help them see where they hurt you? Be careful that in your pain you do not trample everyone around you like a steamroller, spewing your toxic words like a nuclear fallout cloud over the heads of everyone within earshot. Otherwise you may find yourself cut off from everyone you love.
The tongue is like a flame thrower, and our words have the potential to throw flames of fire that sear, or to throw flames of water that heal. May the Lord help us all to use them sparingly…and wisely, so our children will learn our habits and go on to spread a legacy of peace, rather than one of pain.