We’ve all experienced the power of words. A few words from someone we admired sent us soaring with confidence or imagination. A few words of a different sort from someone we loved cut us to the core, wounding us deeply.
Words can build someone up or send them crashing down. It’s amazing how even after 1000 compliments, one criticism can still crush us.
Jesus once said to his followers that he gave them the power to bind and loose things on earth – with their words.
A friend of mine reached out to me recently to share a story.
“That moment you are vulnerable and tell someone you admire them and see what that means to them… wow!”
I inquired and asked with whom this friend shared this special moment. “Actually a friend from high school. Could tell by a Facebook post she was feeling down. She was one of those ‘teen pregnancy’ stories in my small judgmental home town, but she went on to graduate from high school, get 3 degrees, and serve in the armed forces. I use her as an example to others of ‘no excuses,’ but I have never told her that..until today. She called in tears and made me cry. I had no idea what she was going through, but I knew I needed to let her know her impact in the world. It was powerful for both of us.”
I wonder what would have happened if my friend had ignored the urge to reach out. Would that other woman have continued to struggle while feeling alone? Would she have become depressed, given up, or sabotaged herself?
Have you ever ignored that urge to say something positive to someone else? Ever been on the receiving end of one of those messages?
An Encouraging Word Arrives Right on Time
In the midst of a hard day, one message from someone we know or have impacted can carry us.
A few months ago, I got really weary as a writer. Our family was in the middle of a major transition and I felt like I had let my writing slide. I wondered if anyone cared if I kept writing. A couple days later, a reader emailed me to tell me how much my writing meant to them, how they looked forward to my posts each week. This reader even detailed the difference specific posts had made in their life. Reading this email was like plugging me back into my power source. I could have written another 5,000 words that day!
This fall, I worked on a post for several weeks. I finally published the article, still unsatisfied with the final product. (There’s an old saying about how art is never finsihed, only abandoned.) Well, within 30 minutes of sharing the post with my email list, a friend who is also a reader, texted me this message.
It turns out my friend had been wrestling with the subject of self-awareness literally the night before and had been thinking about her limited self-awareness that morning. My post on self-awareness and how what we don’t know can hurt us arrived just on time!
5 Ways To Use Our Powerful Words for Good
Our words carry incredible power. The words we speak encourage and empower. They also betray and belittle. Regardless of how many people our words reach in a given day, we’re more powerful than we realize. So, how can we take seriously the power we have and use it for good?
1. Choose to be an encourager with your words.
I’ve yet to meet a person who has been over-encouraged. Most of us have a deficiency in that area – we need people to speak encouragement into our hearts. So, be proactive and decide that your voice will be one of encouragement into the lives of those around you. You don’t need to be like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh – unreasonable positivity on a daily basis. But, take seriously the power of your words and decide you’ll use them for good, to the best of your ability.
2. If you think of something good, say it as soon you can.
One of my favorite pastors and leaders, Craig Groeschel, recently shared a message where he talked about a discipline in his life. When he thinks of something good about someone else, he immediately shares it with them. He doesn’t let a word of encouragement escape him. He seizes the opportunity.
I think this is a worthy commitment. When something good about someone else comes to mind, we ought to say it immediately. We should pull our phone out and text them. Tell Siri to dial them. Punch out an email. Walk down the hall and share it.
Someone once said, “Unexpressed gratitude actually communicates ingratitude.” In the same way, unexpressed encouragement often leads to discouragement. Say it before you forget it.
3. Don’t wait for death to realize all the things you should have said.
As I was transitioning from a church I served for 10 years earlier this year, a friend wrote me a note with this opening. “I know people typically wait to write this kind of note until death, but I don’t want to waste the opportunity I have now to share how much your ministry has meant to me.” Those words have stuck with me.
Have you ever sat at a funeral and said, “I wish the deceased had heard these words before they died.” How many sad tributes after death would have been different if the words had been spoken before death? Because life is fragile, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Don’t put it off – you don’t know if you’ll get another opportunity.
4. Filter the words you speak about others.
In our fast-paced, social media world, we rarely pause before we speak, type or hit record. As a result, we get ourselves in trouble with our words and we end up hurting one another. I stumbled on the THINK acronym several years ago – a tool to help us filter our words.
This acronym was inspired by a passage of Scripture. In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” This list is a great reminder that what we fill our minds with will ultimately emerge in the form of our words.
5. Apologize quickly for misspoken words and learn from your lessons.
Most of our relational conflict comes from our words. We say what we didn’t mean. Or we didn’t think our words would be interpreted “that way.” We fail to filter what’s truly in our heart and what comes out is neither beautiful nor the best.
While what we say and do online is like a tatoo – it never truly goes away, we should move quickly to apologize for words we regret. We also must convert our failures into lessons which inform our actions in the future. We’re all going to say words we wish we could take back. One of my favorite writers, Allison Fallon, recently wrote, “the best apology you can give people is to be different next time. Better than ‘I’m sorry’ is humility and real change.”
Is there someone who needs to hear from you today? Is there something you’ve been thinking about saying but you’ve been putting it off? Since tomorrow is not guaranteed, why not say it today while you know you can?
You’re powerful than you could imagine. Speak like you believe it.