'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me'. This should sound familiar to most of us since we danced around the playground yelling this to those who tossed verbal barbs our direction. If we are honest with ourselves, we admit just how hurt we can be by the opinions, thoughts, and/or expressions of others.
Why do we talk so harshly about others? Taking such delight in their pain; sharing it freely as if to taunt them with it or even shame them. Are we so callous that we can't see how much those words hurt the other person??? Often times the person we are talking about is someone we would call a "friend." Would you like one of your friends to speak harshly about you? When we identify this behavior in ourselves, how do we go about changing ourselves? In an entire culture?
The words of Christ Jesus come to mind, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12, NIV) Some people will use YOUR rules against you; be ready for that. If you speak harshly of others, expect harsh words to be spoken of you. We are advised to be the light; a shining example for others in this dark world. Perhaps allowing others to talk about you and simply ignoring hurtful remarks is a good place to begin. When this strategy doesn't work, then seek wisdom in how to respond. Harsh words in response will only cause more hurt and do further damage to an already strained relationship. Of course, there may also be situations that warrant an immediate correction to halt future hurtful conversations. The correction might be a statement by you about how hurt you felt along with the impact on the relationship. Whether you choose to ignore the hurtful words or to respond with correction, ensure that your actions show a positive example of how you expect to be treated.
For as long as man has been fallen, hurtful words have been spoken. That is a heavy history to change. Is it realistic to think that we can get everyone to stop being hurtful? No. However, it is reasonable to work at impacting the close circle of friends, family, acquaintances, etc. that we encounter in our daily walk.