Words Can Be Worse Than Stones

I can sling sarcasm like nobody’s business. I have comebacks for nearly every situation and when they leave my mouth, they seem so very witty, to me.

Recently I was out on a twenty mile run with friends and one of my friends said something totally innocent. Before I even thought of the words leaving my mouth, I let fly with a sarcastic comment.

The look on my friend’s face literally made me stop running. Right there I came face to face with a very scary truth.

What I think is witty wounds. The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, isn’t true. Words leave a lasting mark and sarcasm leaves deep, gaping wounds.

The reality of this has been a wake up call for me and in this second half of my life on this earth, sarcasm is something I want to shed like the dead skin it is.

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We live in a toxic verbal culture today. Everywhere we turn, sarcasm is used to cut people down to size, to minimize them and to try and make us feel good about ourselves.

We see this toxic verbal culture at every turn. Social media has made it simple to throw toxic word bombs at everybody we disagree with, everybody that is too white or too dark, too male or too female, too perfect or too imperfect. With 140 words or less we can tear them down and feel good for thirty seconds.

And it’s everywhere. How can you escape it? And what can I, as somebody who lives in a small town with little influence over anybody, begin to make a change in this toxic verbal culture.

Before I set about changing the world though, I must begin with what I can control.

I can control my words — written, verbal and even the sarcastic facial expressions I use.

Before I can even begin to shed the toxic, noxious fumes of sarcasm that spew from my mouth, I must address where and why I live this way.

Over the course of about two weeks of solitary runs I decided to address where my sarcasm comes from. On a night where it was -3F outside with a wind chill of -13F, I headed to the local community college to run circles on the indoor track. I wanted to get in six miles but as I went deep inside myself, I just kept running circles. As I drew to a close with my fifteen mile night of circles, I had discovered something important about myself.

I use sarcasm as a defense mechanism. I discovered I am deeply afraid of two things.

First, I am afraid of being a nobody, that people will read my words, see my home, look at my professional career, and see that I am nothing and have accomplished nothing. I know this is not what people see when they see me, but because my opinion of myself is so unhealthy, I react to nearly every comment with toxic sarcasm to keep from being hurt. I am afraid that when I leave this earth, that nobody will even have noticed I was ever here. So, to fend off anybody else seeing me the way I see myself, sarcasm reigns supreme.

Second, I want to talk more than I listen. In order to be heard, it is easier to just cut somebody down to size so they are so stunned they’ll never be able to throw words at me.

And the toxic verbal culture gets added to by one more sarcastic comment coming out of my mouth and I am helping to create an ugly world.

As I drew to a close on that run, I suddenly began to see myself in a different light and I began to prayerfully ask for wisdom to be a different person.

On one of my last laps a verse I hadn’t read in a long time seeped into my brain.

Psalm 141:3, New Living Translation “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”

I can be a better person and as I grow into who I was created to be, I can set a guard across my lips.

As I change and become a better version of me and listen before speaking. There may even be times I have nothing to say, simply because I no longer wish to add to this toxic verbal culture.

I may never change the world at large, but I can have a tremendous effect on my friends, families and co-workers.

I don’t know how many miles I’ll need to run in order to throw off this toxic sarcasm that encases me. However, I know I’m willing to go for the long run, the longest run of my life and be shed of sarcasm.

Words Can Be Worse Than Stones

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