Sticks and Stones: Healed and Made Whole

My teenage daughter and her friend were giggling and joking in the back of my car. Her friend said, “Ms. Gross, am I the weirdest friend that your daughter has?”

Despite her laughter, I was startled. Matching her tone, I teased back, “No, she has way weirder friends than you!”

Something about the interaction worried me.

Later, I asked my daughter, “Why did your friend think that I’d think she was weird? Did somebody tell her that?”

My daughter replied, “Yes.” Her friend had been bullied at school when she was younger, and years later she still worries that she is annoying or weird.

I thought of the old playground saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Except mean words do hurt, especially those we hear repeatedly and at young ages. They can sink down into the deepest parts of ourselves until we begin to believe lies without realizing it.

What’s Your Leitmotif?

In music and literature, the term leitmotif refers to a repeating theme associated with a particular person or situation. In a movie, you might hear the same background music whenever the villain appears. In a musical, a character might sing the same melody or lyrics at different times in the show.

We each have a soundtrack: the memories, words, and feelings that influence how we experience and live our lives. Some of us learn in childhood that we must prove ourselves to those around us. Others learn that making a lot of money or becoming powerful in the world is the only metric of success. Maybe your song sounds like, “I can’t count on God,” or “Better safe than sorry,” or some other lesson that you learned early on from less-than-ideal circumstances or from the equally imperfect people around you.

One theme that echoes within me is “not good enough.” My natural temperament lends itself to a high level of both idealism and perfectionism. I can imagine how something “should” be done, and when I don’t live up to my self-imposed ideal, feelings of inadequacy are not far behind.

What is your leitmotif, the words you whisper to yourself as you make decisions about your life? And—most important—are those words actually true?

Are they how God sees you?

Replacing Lies with Truth

In his epistles, Paul often cautions his readers to be careful about what they believe, as he warned about false teachers, pagan practices, and theological errors. In Romans 12:2, he wrote this:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We live in a world devastated by a serpent’s deception and influenced by the father of lies. We all have half-truths and even outright lies circling around our minds. Until we look to God for our true identities, our true leitmotifs, our songs are dissonant. Through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can renew our minds by listening to God’s song, God’s words, God’s true name for us.

Repenting and confessing our sins is a good first step in replacing lies with truth. When we confess, we agree with God that we are weak, imperfect, and sinful. We acknowledge that we don’t know or understand it all. Instead of holding on to whatever wrong-headed ideas we have told ourselves, we open our hearts and minds to accept Jesus’ forgiveness and learn a new way of living.

As we let go of lies, we turn toward the truth of who God is and who we are, basing our lives on “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68) that come only through Jesus.

Practicing the Truth

We are forgetful creatures. It takes practice to replace lies with truth and then to live our lives in the light of that truth.

Over and over in the Bible, God’s people are urged to remember what God has done for them. The book of Psalms recounts the history of God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from captivity and other dangers, the nature of God’s character, and God’s promises for the future in poetic, prayerful form. Used as a hymnal and prayer book, the Psalms ensured that the truth of God would be sung and prayed and repeated and remembered throughout the lives of all God’s people.

“Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He uttered,” says Psalm 105:5, and we Christians today remember and sing and pray about Jesus’ death, resurrection, forgiveness, and love for us.

Attending worship gives us built-in time each week to focus on God and His ways rather than our own. Communion delivers to us Christ’s forgiveness and reminds us of His love and sacrifice. Spending time not just reading but “marinating” in Scripture helps us to replace our own petty words and thoughts with eternal truths. Singing, praying, spending time with our brothers and sisters in Christ—all these activities help us live in God’s truth.

When we practice listening to God’s words, we begin to believe and live out what God says about us rather than what others say or what we think about ourselves. When Jesus came to die for us, He proclaimed that each of us is worth the sacrifice of His life. The words that Jesus speaks about us are beloved, heirs to the kingdom, redeemed, forgiven, and worthy.

Yes, words can certainly hurt, and often have a more lasting impact than “sticks and stones.” But when we attune our hearts and minds to the truth of God’s words, we are healed and made whole.

Scripture: ESV®.

124667Need more encouragement from God’s Word, not society? Debunk eight “self-help” phrases to find true comfort in the Bible with God’s Encouraging Word.


Preview the Book

Picture of Jennifer Gross
Written by

Jennifer Gross

Jennifer Gross is a women’s ministry leader in her local church and a stay-at-home mom to two teenage daughters. She’s passionate about digging into Scripture, telling and listening to stories about God’s work in our lives, and encouraging others to go deeper with God. As a former copyeditor, she has surprisingly strong opinions about commas, semicolons, and idioms.

Subscribe to all CPH Blog topics (Worship, Read, Study, Teach, and Serve)