The Power of the Word

Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, was mistaken.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Texan Deleese Williams was so excited when ABC-TV’s producers reached out to offer her a spot on an episode of their very successful Extreme Makeover, a beast to beauty type show that promised a life-changing physical transformation via a series of procedures and external modifications. As the date for the show quickly approached, producers were busy with Deleese’s family, getting video footage of her, for those “before” shot’s, and interviews with her family members who, at the prompting of the producers, verbally exaggerated each physical “flaw” and imperfection. The producers were looking for that “shock and awe” moment when the before and after was to be revealed at the show’s climax. 

Just days before the first surgery was to occur, Deleese was flown to Los Angeles and scheduled for a string of procedures, one of which was plastic surgery. At the last minute, the show was canceled due to a scheduling conflict with the doctors. Deleese was issued a ticket to return home, yet she didn’t want to leave. Why? After weeks of hearing her family members point out so many of her physical flaws, she had begun to see herself as ugly and just wanted to hide away from humanity. Back home in Texas, struggling with depression, she refused to leave the house, only venturing out to Wal-Mart for groceries after midnight. 

Deleese’ sister Kellie recognized that she had allowed herself to be drawn in by the producers, goaded into videotaping “hurtful and horrific statements” about her sister’s appearance. Now, faced with the consequences, Kellie could no longer stand the lasting effects of a show gone wrong, took her own life only four months after her sister’s appearance was canceled, leaving behind two children, who now are being raised by Deleese.

The person that coined the phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, was either deceived, naïve, or a liar; words do hurt. 

And no one is exempt. The great prophet of God, Elijah, knew the devastating effects of negative words. Coming off a great victory on Mount Carmel, where all the false prophets of Baal were destroyed, and a great revival sweeping over the land, Elijah received a letter. The king’s wife, Jezebel, was the author of a letter that essentially let Elijah know he was hated and not worthy of life. Elijah withdrew from the mountain of victory and ended up under a tree, asking God to take his life (I Kings 18 & 19). Words do hurt. 

The same thing that got Elijah out from under the tree is the same thing that can get Deleese out of her house-to start seeing ourselves as God sees us, His most incredible creation and the object and expression of His love.

While we can’t change the Williams family tragedy, we can be part of a movement that can ensure it is never repeated. There are many voices in this world that communicate our physical insufficiencies, Hollywood, media, co-workers, and at times, even friends and family. Yet, the voice that matters, our Creator, says that we are all created in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:27) and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)! Perhaps we should take it upon ourselves to share that message with those in our lives; it won’t hurt, and it might just make a difference.

Scripture: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” Hebrews 10:24 (ESV)

Questions: Have you ever been discouraged by the words of another, allowing the views of someone else to affect how you feel about yourself? Would you be willing to count how many compliments you give out to others each day and work on improving that number each week?

Prayer: Father, may today I be reminded that you created me and that you don’t make junk! Please help me start to see myself, not through the eyes of Hollywood or media, but through your eyes. I have been designed by you personally; therefore, may I rejoice and celebrate every wrinkle, freckle, and spot as marks of your creativity and love. Please help me encourage others to do the same, for all were created in your image and likeness. Thank you for using me to stir up others in loving themselves as objects of your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.