Words define us.
The words we use, the words we live by, make us who we are.
They are powerful. Whether or not they are truth, words impact us!
Think back and remember all the times you were cut down by someone’s words. How did that effect you? Now, remember back to all the times someone gave you a word of encouragement or advice. What difference did these words make in your life? I believe God wired me to be especially in tune with words. I’m sure there are a lot of others, too, that could say words are really key for them – but not everyone. Different people have different strengths. And, strangely, the strengths of people can very easily become their weaknesses.
Strength is power, and power can be wielded for both good and bad. I realize this personally, because the skills that enable me to say just the right thing at the right moment when someone really needs encouragement also make it easy for me to cut quickly and devastate with my words. It is very easy to discourage and tear down the people around us without even realizing what we are doing. For me, like I said, words are really key, and things that people say can really hurt me a lot. In fact, it happens quite easily. (Thankfully, people are usually nice to me, haha.) And because of this, you’d think that I would be quick to realize how other people would feel if I said things negative or discouraging or making fun. But no! On numerous occasions I have found myself saying things – and thinking about saying things – that were not at all uplifting. Just opinions, mostly – things that were maybe true – things anyone might think – but they were completely unnecessary and did not serve any good purpose.
Analyzing what I was doing, I would realize – wow, this feels so natural, so easy, so normal. I’d realize that it was difficult to lift myself beyond the present moment and my own comfortable perspective to put myself into the shoes of the people listening to me. And then I’d sort of feel bad, because I determined long ago in my heart to be careful not to hurt people in ways that I have been hurt, and ways that I’ve seen others hurt. Which reminds me of something else I realized – it is so easy for me to notice when other people say things I think they oughtn’t, and be mindful of the hurt their words could potentially cause! It is much easier than seeing the same problems in myself. Some may think that words aren’t so much their thing, and might think that it’s not much use for them to give encouragement that way because it’s likely to come out wrong, anyway. That might be true – I can’t really argue with that. But consider: even if the words don’t come out right, if the heart is right, it will likely be understood.
People often have a knack of seeing through words, and many know instinctively when someone is sincerely out for their good – or their hurt. In the prep for this speech, I noticed that the verse that was quoted really applies to this topic. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). That is so true. The difference between the person that uplifts all those around him/her, and the person that seems to kill spirit and hope wherever he/she goes, is not necessarily that one has decided that he/she will try to speak only uplifting things and that the other has decided to speak every negative thing that comes to mind – the difference is what is cultivated in the heart. Whatever thoughts a person nurtures in his/her heart will come out – whether directly or indirectly. Let me emphasize that again, because it is so key: Whatever thoughts a person nurtures in his/her heart will be the well from which they speak.
At the end of the day, which challenges you most to do better or more – someone telling you that you can’t do, that you don’t have what it takes, and that you aren’t enough, or someone telling you to go for it, that, yes, you can do it, and that you will find what you need to get through while in the process of doing? Words: Few or many, polished or rough, all make a difference, and communicate the heart. When you choose to cultivate hope in your heart that speaks in your words, people will notice. Not everyone who you speak to will care much what you say. Not everyone will be listening to hear what you sincerely mean. But people will notice, and the ones that really need your encouragement will hear you. The ones open, and the ones most vulnerable and searching will hear you.
You would probably be surprised to know how many people are listening to you; how many people might change how they think because of you. Let me finish with this passage from Paul: Romans 15:1-6 The Example of Christ “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)