While I was listening to a recent Chuck Swindoll "Insight for Living" radio broadcast, he cited a statistic about what we call "domestic violence."
Two million cases of reported domestic violence involve some kind of weapon, he said.
At first I thought that sounded a little high until I thought about what we see each week in the police log. On the same day as Swindoll's broadcast, the police log in our local paper carried a story of two cases of family violence.
In one, a wife attacked her husband with a butcher knife because he told her to put a Band-Aid on her arm instead of picking open the scab.
Talk about a major reaction to a minor provocation.
In the other reported case, a husband attacked his wife and her mother with a knife because he thought his wife was cheating on him and her mother was covering up for her.
If you read the police log in any paper you'll see more of the same every single week. There is often a weapon in reported cases of domestic violence.
But many cases of attack aren't reported because of the weapon used. For many, the weapon of choice is words.
Words can knife and words can kill.
Words can kill someone's spirit.
Words can kill a relationship.
Most of us wouldn't pick up a knife or a gun. But we don't hesitate to use words as weapons. We just don't tend to think of words as weapons.
There's a little ditty we hear from the time we are young that says:
"Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But words will never hurt me."
We often teach that poem to children. When someone says hurtful things to them, we remind them of that old poem.
But we lie when we tell children words will never hurt them. Sometimes, the hurtful words we hear as children stay with us forever.
And no matter how old we are, hurting words are hard to handle.
One 60-year-old woman says she grew up hearing her mother say, "You can't do anything right."
I don't know how often she heard that growing up. But I do know those words have remained burned into her brain. She still thinks she can't do anything right.
Sometimes, we get the habit of firing off words, perhaps not realizing the harm the words are doing.
My friend and I were in a supermarket when we heard a guy cutting down his wife.
"You always make dumb decisions like that," he yelled. Actually, he was so loud I think they could hear him in the next aisle. His wife didn't respond to any of his insults, but he still kept firing hurtful words at her.
"Don't you just want to go over there and shake him?" asked my friend. "And if he's like that in public, can you image that poor woman's life at home?"
A favorite new couple regretfully told me they need to stay away from another couple in our crowd. "We just can't stand listening to the way they bicker and constantly put each other down," said my friend.
I wonder if the sparring couple is even aware of the pattern of criticism that has become part of their life. Oftentimes we fall into a destructive pattern without even realizing it.
Sometimes we forget about the power of words.
Words have the power to maim. But they also have the power to soothe, to heal, to motivate, to inspire.
Sometimes, hearing some well-chosen words at the time we most need them is like soothing balm on a troubled spirit.
There are times when we are feeling down but our spirits are picked up again when someone seems to say the exact thing we need to hear.
My friend Fran has the gift of saying the absolute right thing at the right time.
So does my friend Robert.
These two people know the power of words. They both use words to encourage others. I often watch them in amazement as they use words to give others a new perspective about themselves.
I read an interesting fact this week. It said the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
Well, it's certainly the most powerful and the hardest to control.
I like watching the Joyce Meyer TV show each night because she has such practical words of wisdom.
She recently talked about words – how some of us err by going into the silent treatment and not talking, while others err by being a motormouth.
She's right when she points out we often talk too much and think too little. She admits when she has a disagreement with her husband she often doesn't know when to stop talking. "I always have to have the last word," she said.
The audience laughed because we can all relate to that real-life scenario.
She successfully uses her own personal examples to drive a point home to others. She keeps stressing we need to realize words can be constructive or destructive.
Words can build friendships, start love affairs or end relationships.
They can tear down or build up.
Meyer is right. We need to think more about the powerful weapon we all have at our disposal, using it to help, not harm.