A story is told about a young woman who repeated a rumor about a friend. Soon, the entire community had heard the rumor. Not much later, the woman who shared the tantalizing news discovered that it was not true. Quite upset by her wrong deed she sought counsel from a wise friend. After listening to this sad story, the perceptive friend handed her a feather pillow instructing her to go home and toss all the feathers outside. Although this seemed a strange directive, she did as she was told. The next day, the slandering woman returned to the prudent friend who then instructed her to go and collect all the feathers and put them back in the pillow. Of course, this was impossible. The feathers had scattered widely and to unknown places. Sadly, the truth became clear. It is easy to speak words that smear or misrepresent, but impossible to gather them up and repair the damage. Defamation is forever. How impactful are the words we speak! Whether they are maligning, discouraging or life-giving, the choice is ours.
For some time I have been thinking about my words and how I can use them to give life. The above story relates the extended repercussion of words. Daily, our words impact others. What if our words were life-giving and launched a reverberation? Ephesians 4:29 encourages us to “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The concept of edification is significant. I am either a faucet or a drain. Truth!
Since I was a little girl I have worked to be a discrete person. Often I communicate that I am a vault. My goal is the be a safe person. Many share secrets or deep hurts with me. Some share the struggles they are having with their children or spouse. If someone asks me directly to disclose information about someone else’s life, my response is, “It is not my story to share.” Loyalty is highly valued with me. My goal is to protect those I love. I aim to be a loyal wife, mother, sister, daughter or friend. This means when I speak of those close to me what I share is building up.
When we are with others, there is a plethora of options when considering conversation topics. If I am to be thoughtful and purposeful with my words, I want to be life-giving. This begs the question, “How can I give life with my words?” I want to be contemplative as I select my words. The HOW may look like this:
HOW can my words be life-giving?
- Be sensitive to the needs of others instead of my own.
- By communicating what is positive in the day or culture
- Giving God praise or recognition for his goodness to us
- Regardless of the situation, look for the good
- Remind others what I like best about them
- Speak to the strengths of others
WHO needs life-giving words?
- Those I live with
- My family, immediate and extended
- My children, young and grown
- Those I do life with such at church, in my neighborhood and in my regular routines of living.
- People I meet briefly
Considering the impact of my words on paper and those that come out of my mouth, I am reminded that my words can be life-giving like the refreshing water of a mountain stream. (Proverbs 18: 4) In contrast to gentle words that bring life and health, a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
One of the more specific passages that details characteristics about our speech would be found in I Cor 13. If our love must be action, then our speech is directed by these parameters. Our words should be loving, patient, kind, not envious, or boasting, not prideful or rude, not selfish, or irritable or resentful, or happy with wrongdoing, but rejoicing with truth. My words need to convey hope and loyalty. My communication should not be full of childish ways or foolishness. Focusing on the future motivates me to live purposefully. Part of this means speaking into others in a meaningful way. It is in my power to encourage, to inspire and impact with my speech.
If someone was to read the transcript of my life, what would be represented by my words?
Sometimes less is more. When others are walking through a hard time, the best thing to say might just be, “I am so very sorry.” Recently, I walked with my mother through her journey with pancreatic cancer. We knew there was no hope of recovery. On those days when she would ask me hard questions, I would just pray for wise words. One day she asked me why I thought someone like her who had pursued healthy living would die with pancreatic cancer. She lived a disciplined life with regular exercise and food choices. When she was diagnosed with this cancer, she was going to the gym three to four times a week. Her food choices were excellent. For a moment, I was speechless. Then God gave me “life-giving” words. I told her that her commitment to a strong mind and body was not in vain. She lived an energetic, vivacious and active 77 years. No chronic illness or mobility limitations had presented constraints on her active living. Her continuous ministry work continued to impact so many. It was truth with a hope of encouragement in life giving words in an admittedly sad question.
Find the good in someone and praise it. If you are a mother or you work with children, speak vision into your praise. For example, I saw gifts in my youngest son when he was ten years old that led me to tell him that I could see him as a teaching pastor. He is currently studying to be a teaching pastor. Another son loved to put things together. I told him that I could see strengths of common sense and mechanical know how. He is currently in the Air Force preparing to be a A & P mechanic. Some say that words are just that, words. I disagree.
Sometimes our words can communicate directly that someone is welcome and wanted. Wow!! Many are starving for this type of love!
I don’t believe that living with an effort to speak life-giving words can be tied up in a neat package to replicate. It is living with a sense of kindness toward the needs of others. Kindness should start in our home. It is the carefully crafted response and the gentle touch of a hand reaching out with loving humanity. “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” What a gift. Give the gift of well-timed words. You remember the words that were spoken to you that you have held tight because they were uplifting and life giving. This refreshment lifts the giver just as much as the receiver.
Life-giving words breathe invigorating energy. Don’t miss the opportunity to be the giver.