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The Ways We Kill

by Brandon Jubar

Remember “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”? Isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever heard? Since when does name-calling and ridiculing not hurt? Whether people want to believe it or not, words can kill.

Anyone who has ever spent time in junior high or high school can tell you that sticks and stones feel much better than the verbal attacks that so many teens endure. Words can hurt. The stones we throw with our mouths can cause serious damage, which can sometimes last a lifetime. Looking at it that way, it should come as no surprise when I say that using words that harm others is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.
“You shall not kill.” (Exod 20:13)

“Killing” doesn’t only refer to the taking of a life. My dictionary tells me that “kill” means, “to put an end to; to extinguish; to destroy a vitally essential quality in.” When we read the Commandment with that in mind, doesn’t it change the meaning dramatically? If this isn’t just about taking a life, what else does it include?
“You shall not put an end to friendships.”

If “killing” means putting an end to something, what does that imply when I ruin a friendship by spreading rumors and gossip about a person? When I break a confidence and tell my friend’s secrets knowing that word will spread quickly, have I violated the commandment? Have I “killed”?
“You shall not extinguish creativity.”

If “killing” means extinguishing something, what does that imply when I snuff out the spark of inspiration shown by someone in my youth group? When I say, “That’s a lame idea,” or “We tried that once and it didn’t work,” have I violated the commandment? Have I “killed”?
“You shall not destroy confidence.”

If “killing” means that an essential quality in something has been destroyed, what does that imply when I say things to destroy someone’s confidence? When I laugh at my younger siblings and make fun of their clumsiness in sports, have I violated the commandment? Have I “killed”?
Be Careful With Your Words

Words can “kill.” Words can end, extinguish, and destroy people and things. Words are weapons and we need to use them wisely. If not, you may just find yourself breaking a commandment.

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