Most of us over the age of fifty remember this old adage well, having learned it in the early years of school to build courage and strength when dealing with the common problem of bullying which has been around since children began playing together thousands of years ago. There is always the bad seed, taking pleasure in hurting others, both physically and with words. And while it is technically true that words can't hurt us in a truly physical sense, they do hurt us psychologically and that can cause significant problems later if not recognized and dealt with effectively.
One of the earliest annotations of the use of this adage in America is found in an 1862 Christian publication called The American Recorder which had a predominantly black audience. Even there it was called an old adage, making it likely a saying that originated in England. Perhaps it was used to help black Americans of the day, some free in the North and others slaves in the South, to deal with the taunts and insults that they must have borne daily, but it certainly lived on at least until the 1960s to help children deal with verbal animosity. I haven't heard it in recent years but, then again, I haven't been on a playground in many years. I'm sure, however, that a more modern "with it" phraseology with the same meaning is probably now in vogue.
I chose the topic day because hurting with words is a huge problem today in the adult world as well. While children can be cruel to one another, it in no way compares to our modern adult world where we sling nasty epithets right and left with nary a thought of the consequences. There's something about hiding behind a computer screen and thinking that we can therefore say anything hurtful we want with no repercussion. And, what's more, instead of it just being spoken, now it's written. The written word doesn't go away, so when you get real ugly with someone else, not only do they see it and likely never forget it, it's also out there for the world to see. And in reality, the biggest impact over time that it has is to hurt the sender more than the receiver, for it tells a lot about what you are and how little you care for the impact it has on others.
Now we all make mistakes, and we've all spoken and written hurtful things in our past, but what God expects from us is to think before we act, in thought, word and deed, and then try to comment in a civilized way. We don't have to agree with each other on everything, debate about different views is a great learning tool for all, but we can do so without resort to a string of expletives which should have been deleted before written or spoken. Maybe this simple reminder will help.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets". - Matthew 7:12 ESV
Those few words give us the answer to dealing with others and they came right from the lips of Jesus Christ our Lord as he told us how to live. The Golden Rule is "golden" because it is the way He wants us to act. It's a simple action but the problem is in the execution. Can we live up to it? Well, we at least should try, for it would both make us better and please the One who made us.