Many of us learned as kids, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” That is one of the biggest loads of buffalo bunk you will find. It is blatantly false. We can heal from broken bones much faster than from hurtful words.

The last two weeks this column discussed how important our words are. First, I wrote about the positive potential our words carry. Last week I wrote about how devastating words can be and the life-giving words God has written about you.

Proverbs 18:21 gives us great reason to pause and evaluate our words. It reads, “The tongue has the power of life and death….” The tongue has extreme power. Life and death are extreme results.

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I received heart-warming and heart-breaking messages from readers regarding words they have received. One reader, early in retirement from a successful business career, shared with me how damaging physically, and emotionally, the verbal bullying he received as a teenager has been. As we exchanged emails, my heart went out to him as he expressed the emotions and effects that remain 50 years later. I know of a successful college athlete greatly affected by bullying back in middle school. A friend of mine was bullied in his 50s when a co-worker ruthlessly made fun of him when my friend faced physical limitations at his job.

A bully is someone who pushes others down to push himself or herself up. What if you and I were proactive in stopping bullying for all ages, backgrounds and settings? What if when we heard or saw bullying happening, we stepped in and said, “Stop, that is not OK!” Several times during my life I have not stepped in and stopped bullying and I regret it. I did not participate in the bullying, but I did nothing to stop it. I must do better. We must do better.

If you have been bullied, I am very sorry. I pray God has brought healing or you are on a healing path. Do not assume or wait for the bully to admit their wrong. More than likely they never will.

What you can do is journey with God on a pathway of forgiveness. This past week I read an article about a lady who received significant verbal and physical abuse as a child. She said she hated her life as a child, but now, she thanks God for her childhood. In recent years, Genesis 50:20 has been a source of wisdom and strength for her. It reads, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for my good. He brought me to this position so that I could save the lives of many people.”

Her pain gave her purpose. She is careful not to mistreat others because she knows what it feels like to be mistreated.

Pain brings us purpose. Forgiveness brings us freedom. Forgiveness is not easy. It is possible, with God walking with us. God has forgiven me of much. He has blessed me, and I do not deserve it. I do not minimize the actions of others, but I realize hurting people hurt others.

Hauser is the founding pastor at Prairie Heights Community Church in Fargo-Moorhead and can be reached at jon.hauser@prairieheights.com