Secondary: Standing Assemblies
The Most Powerful Part of Your Body 1: Hurtful Words
By Stuart Kerner
Suitable for Whole School
To consider how the things we say and the way we say them can influence the lives of other people.
Preparation and materials
- Place a volunteer in the front row who is willing to be yelled at.
Begin by asking if anyone can name the most powerful muscle in their body. Answers may range from the biceps and triceps to the calf muscle. The answer you are looking for is the tongue.
- Words are powerful. In the Bible we are told that God created everything that exists through his creative word.
- Tell your audience that the words you use and the way you use them can have an equally profound effect on the hearer, for either good or ill. To illustrate this point tell one of the front row how smart they look today in the nicest, most charming way possible, really laying it on thick with a beaming smile on your face, before turning your attention to your ‘plant’ in the front row. Really screw your face up, snarl and bellow directly into the poor victim’s face at the top of your voice – berating them about how disgusting they look. Again really go for it, using the scariest teacher voice you can muster. (Don’t forget to thank your helper and give them a round of applause.)
- Tell this story to further illustrate your point:
A man boarded a train for a long journey to visit his mother. He found a carriage that wasn’t too crowded and sat down directly opposite a young woman who was holding a baby.
As the train began to move off, the man took out his newspaper and began to read, but the baby suddenly caught his attention. Without really thinking about it the man began to laugh. His little chuckles rapidly grew into uncontrollable guffaws until the tears were literally rolling down his face.
Eventually the man composed himself enough to say to the woman opposite him: ‘That is the ugliest creature I have EVER seen in my life!’
The woman was understandably upset at this very hurtful comment, and she too began to weep, but not through uncontrollable mirth. Seeing this, the man began to feel ashamed and decided to try and make amends. He quickly went to the buffet car of the train and returned ten minutes later to find that the woman had composed herself. He brought with him a small paper bag.
The man looked at the woman. She sat staring out of the window, her baby now asleep in her arms. ‘Can I just say how sorry I am that I upset you earlier – I was thoughtless and didn’t think before speaking.’ At this the woman smiled, relieved that her travelling companion had the good grace to apologize, and that he was prepared to make amends.
The man reached into the paper bag he had brought from the buffet car and said to the woman: ‘I’d like you to have these.’ He held out a cup of tea and a banana.
‘Thank you for the tea, but I don’t like bananas,’ said the woman.
‘Oh, that’s not for you,’ said the man, ‘that’s for your monkey.’ The woman burst into inconsolable tears again.
- The Bible tells us, ‘Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal’ (Proverbs 12.18).
- Explain that the man’s words were more hurtful to the woman than any action on his part. The words we choose and the way we use them can be profoundly damaging to others and above all we must remember that it is only in the dictionary that speech should come before thought!
Time for reflection
Ask the students to close their eyes and think of all the times they have:
- spoken cruel or hurtful words to others
- used words to deliberately wound others
- spoken without thinking
- shown disrespect to others through what they have said and the way they have said it.
Pause before praying (if appropriate):
May the words of our mouths
and the thoughts of our hearts
be now and always acceptable in the sight of God.
(adapted from Psalm 19)
‘Love is his word’
‘Happy talk’ from South Pacific
‘Wordy rappinghood’ by Tom Tom Club