SHUT UP ALREADY! Lies and the Dangers of Poisonous Speech.

“Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of a Gossip.” Richard Steele

There is a saying that I use to hear a lot growing up, and I’m sure you have heard as well. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  While often repeated, that phrase couldn’t be further from the truth.  I can remember many times when words seemed to cut down into my very soul, being replayed in my head over and over again.  Hurtful words can, and often do, have lasting negative effects. One person’s “Lines” becomes another person’s “Lies”.  Meaning the things people say about us (Lines) can cause us to actually believe they are true (Lies).

We talk and type hundreds, if not thousands, of words daily.  Whether it be in person, sent as text, or on social media. Many of us don’t realize the power of our words.  Words have the power to convey love in a way that can move people to tears. We use words to show compassion for those going through life struggles. To motivate people to succeed when facing failure.  Words are used to let people know how special they are to us. Carefully crafted words can motivate millions of people and change entire nations.

However, Words can also be used to destroy.  Many people live with emotional abuse where words are used to manipulate and break the spirit.  I’ve seen parents in the grocery store swearing at their children, calling them things I dare not repeat in this article. People are viciously bullied at school, at work, and online.  Many commit suicide every year due to the words others use against them. Our words can have the power of life, and death

Lines and Lies



James 3:6 (NIV)

  1. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

“You are so dumb”

“You are setting yourself up for failure.”

“Don’t follow in that guy’s footsteps.”

“You will always be an amateur.”

These are just some lines I have been told throughout my life.  Some I brushed off because I really didn’t value that person’s opinion anyway.  Others, however, came from people I looked up, and those words hurt. For years I would hang on to these lines and allow them to have a negative effect on my self-esteem.  They caused me to second guess any risk I thought about taking and take even the slightest failure harder than I needed to. I believed the lines, even though they weren’t true.

How many times have you been told you aren’t good enough to do something?  How many times has your intelligence been questioned? How many times have the lines people told you, make you doubt yourself and your abilities to the point where you don’t even want to try?  The thing I learned from the lines I mentioned above was that they were made by people whose opinion didn’t really matter. Furthermore, why was I allowing these people to control my life?  That is exactly what I was doing and it’s exactly what some of you may be doing now. You are handing control of your life to people who don’t have your best interest in mind and whose opinion shouldn’t even matter?

 The scripture above tells how the tongue is like a fire and if you let it, it will consume every aspect of your life.  Years can be spent building a reputation, and with a few loose words, destroyed.  Love turns to hate, marriages are destroyed, and friendships lost, due to how we communicate. As a father, I have seen how much my words can hurt my children, so I am very careful when I talk to them.  As a man, I realized that I need to train myself to have the discipline to choose my words carefully in all situations.

It’s not easy for me to say, but I wasn’t always a great dad.  My first couple years of single fatherhood were filled with a great deal of frustration. I was still emotionally hurt due to my divorce and financial situation.  I had a nasty habit of calling my boys things like “Knucklehead” and “Peanut”. One day we were at my brother’s house and my oldest son spilled a cup of juice. I said, “clean it up, knucklehead”. My son looked down in shame and I heard him say “why does he always call me names?”  Immediately I felt ashamed, more than I ever had in my life.  I stood there and saw how my words were tearing my young son apart. I walked over to him and apologized. That was over 10 years ago and I have never called either of my sons another name since.

What is Poisonous Speech?



James 3:8 (NIV)

  1. But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.


1. Slander: a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report:

The words that stick out to me are malicious, false, and defamatory.  In other words, are you a person that is malicious and make false statements about others?

Years ago I worked in a customer service call-center. There was a woman there that seemingly went out of her way to make enemies.  She didn’t have anything nice to say about anyone. Several times she had other co-workers threaten her with violence over the things she said.  She even thought her supervisor was out to get her, so she spread lies in an attempt to get her fired. Well her slanderous tongue was eventually seen as an issue and poisonous to the workplace.  She was eventually fired.

2. Gossip: idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others:

Are you always in someone else’s business?  Spreading rumors about the lives of others? Our society is all about gossip.  We go to the store and gossip magazines line the checkout.  We become so immersed in the lives of others that we don’t take care of our own business.

When I was younger I attended a church that was full of people that loved to gossip. I remember when my mother had a bunch of ladies over and all they would talk about being who had what, who was doing what, and who was seeing who. One Sunday the pastor decided to make an example of a teenage girl because she was apparently quite promiscuous.  The young woman was so embarrassed that she never came back.  Later it was found out that it was the pastor’s grandson that was the promiscuous one.  Rumors and gossip caused many to be embarrassed, some to the point that they left the church altogether. Gossip turned to slander which hurt a lot of people.

Whether genuine or fake, a person’s personal life is exactly that, personal. It’s never good to be the person to spread rumors and gossip. We all have our faults and vices so don’t be that person that is quick to point the finger and tell other people’s business.


3. Criticism: the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.

A few years later I was helping coach my son’s soccer team. We were at a tournament and one of the fathers was relentlessly criticizing his son.  The boy fought back tears while on the pitch so I called him over and he said,“I don’t want to play anymore”.  During halftime, I walked over and talked to the father one on one.  I told him that his “sideline coaching” was affecting his son to the point that he didn’t want to continue playing.  He called his son over and apologized, saying he just wanted him to do his best.  He decided to continue playing and we won. Guess who scored the winning goal?

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

5 Things to consider before opening your mouth.



  • What exactly am I trying to say? Watch HOW you say it and don’t say it with a poisonous tongue.
  • Should what I want to say even be said?
  • Am I communicating effectively? Are you talking to someone, or at them? Are you being negative and criticizing instead of helpful and uplifting?
  • Does what I want to say come from a place of pride, or a place of humility? Do you think or pray before saying anything out of anger?
  • Am I a person that always have to have the last word? Do I always have to be right? If so, why?

Remember, when wisdom and humility are absent from our speech, what we have to say doesn’t need to be said.  Our words show our level of maturity, and for some, immaturity.  Constant swearing, crude joking, fault finding, these are signs of a very immature person. Your words can affect every area of your life, both positively and negatively. So chose wisely.

Terrell Cotton PicTerrell Cotton is a motivational blogger and a full-time single father of two boys who are his heart and soul. is dedicated to helping men become better versions of themselves by building on biblical principles of authentic manhood and fatherhood.






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