“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
~ Aibileen to Mae Mobley Leefolt in Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help.
When I was a little girl, no matter how many times grown-ups tried to convince me otherwise, my heart told me it was a lie–
Sticks and stones may break your bones
But words will never hurt you.
Mean words hurt me to the core, and when I look at how angry and evil the tongue is characterized in scripture, is it any wonder?
- It belongs to a lion, a ravenous beast; it is sharp sword (Psalm 54:4)
- It’s a conduit of lies (Psalm 78:36)
- It can be serpent-sharp and poisonous (Psalm 140:3)
- It’s capable of crushing your spirit (Proverbs 15:4)
- It has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21)
- It corrupts the whole body (James 3:6)
Almost as hurtful are words withheld; the assurances and encouragement we long to hear…need to hear.
- A 35-year-old friend confides through tears the pain of a father who never said “I love you.”
- Friends who, because of envy or insecurity, can’t (won’t?) celebrate your successes…or who, if they do, with backhanded compliment.
- The student who needs his teacher to notice how hard he’s trying.
- The husband who’s desperate to be affirmed at home because work and responsibility is bearing down.
- The wife who’s desperate to be affirmed at home, because she made choices that required sacrifice and does anyone even recognize what it takes to manage house and children?
- When you’ve wronged and you’re truly sorry, repentent, and “I forgive you” is the only thing that will release you from guilt’s bondage.
The capacity for words to harm or heal resonated with me in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help; the novel first, and then again in the movie adaptation. Threading together the lead characters’ stories, words showered life and love, death and defeat, healing and redemption.
One of the most lingering images from book and screen is that of maid Aibileen Clark speaking life into little Mae Mobley, the daughter often neglected or ignored by her mother, Elizabeth Leefolt. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Aibileen tells her over and over, words she knew Mae Mobley wouldn’t hear otherwise…and words for which she was starving herself.
Aibileen knew the words Mae Mobley was hearing were heart-hurtful…and she knew the words she wasn‘t hearing were equally damaging.
Again, sifting through scripture, positive truths about words and the tongue–
- The mouth is a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11)
- Words encourage (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
- Words are edifying (Ephesians 4:29)
- The tongue rejoices (Acts 2:26)
- Words teach (Proverbs 31:26)
- The tongue can soothe & give life (Proverbs 15:4)
- Expresses laughter and joy (Psalm 126:2)
- Praises God (Psalm 66:17)
- The tongue is the pen of a skillful writer (Psalm 45:1)
I know I’ve spoken about the power of written words in this space before (along with several other incourage writers), but today might I encourage you to speak life, love, affirmation, truth or forgiveness into the life of another? Something they’re desperate to hear? Or I’d love to hear how someone has made a difference in your life with their words; in wounding, that we might pray, or in healing that we might celebrate.
By Robin Dance, PENSIEVE