"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift."
To illustrate how powerful our words can be, I cut a life-size paper man out of butcher paper before we began and had him laying in the center of the our meeting space (as a fun thing before we started, I had markers out so that students could draw on him and give him some "personality"!). After an opening game, we stood in a circle around the paper person (Roger, as he came to be called) and each student and adult leader took turns walking up to Roger, hurling an insult or some hurtful words at him, and then ripping off a small piece of him.
It was super fun, and the students got really... creative with their insults (ROGER! YOU'RE SO TWO-DIMENSIONAL! WHY CAN'T YOU STAND UP FOR YOURSELF???) and even some of our shyer youth got in to the activity.
When Roger was sufficiently shredded by our insults and negative words, I asked everyone to lay their pieces of paper back in the middle of the circle. We stood there for a second, then I said four simple words:
"Put him back together."
Of course, they were like YEAH RIGHT! Some actually attempted to match up the pieces and put poor old Roger back together, but it was too late. Our words had damaged him irreparably. Do I even need to explain the point?
Our words can really hurt someone, and it's a lot easier to tear a person or a relationship apart than it is to put it back together. This led in to some great discussion about the power of words and our responsibility as followers of Jesus to always be building others up, NEVER tearing them down.
- Tim B.
PS - I can't take credit for this idea. Big props to Mike Hammer for the basis of this exercise! Check out his site here. Thanks Mike!