More About Words…

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There is an old story about an elderly couple who was approaching their 50th wedding anniversary. They had planned a small celebration with family and close friends. As the special day approached, the wife ventured to share a concern she had about the relationship with her husband.

“You know, dear, it has been a very long time since you’ve said, ‘I love you.’ In fact, I can’t remember the last time you said it.” She held her breathe, hopeful for some sign of affection.

The husband growled, “I told you on our wedding day. If I change my mind, I will let you know!”

It’s a wonder that this couple had managed to be married for so long.

Spoken words are powerful. Words left unspoken also carry a power of their own. They morph by people’s imaginations. Assumptions run wild.

There are four phrases that should be spoken often.

  1. I love you (or I care about you). Relationships need to be nurtured. At home and in the workplace, people need to know they matter to you. With my husband and kids, I made a commitment to say “I love you” every day before they left the house. If something unexpectedly tragic happened, I wanted my last words to be “I love you.” When spoken, the expression of affection builds others up.
  2. I appreciate you. It’s important to mention specific actions or attributes that you appreciate. Naming somebody’s strengths and talents affirms their positive qualities and encourages them to continue expressing them. Appreciation also creates a sense of value in the hearer.
  3. I’m sorry. Be genuine and mention what you are sorry about. Admitting that you are wrong and sorry establishes a safe environment. Mistakes are learning opportunities. By your example, others will be encouraged to take ownership for their actions and apologize for wrong-doing.
  4. I forgive you. Embrace the humility of Jesus and be quick to forgive. Let go of pride and refuse to hold a grudge. We receive God’s forgiveness when we forgive others. The LORD has graciously forgiven us and continues to forgives, and empowers us to walk in forgiveness toward others.

Let’s bless others with our words. May we speak words of life and love, building people up and glorifying the LORD. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NLT).

Four Questions to Guide our Words

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Words are powerful. The LORD God brought creation into being through words. “Let there be______. And it was so.” (Genesis 1). We have the ability to speak life or death into situations (Proverbs 18:21). Therefore, we must keep a tight rein on our tongues (James 1:26).

Nicky Gumbel, pioneer of The Alpha Course and Vicar of HTB in London, offers three questions to guide our words. I have added a fourth. As we pass our words through the filter of these questions, our mouths become refreshing wellsprings of wisdom and revelation.

  1. Is it true? As Christ-followers we are called to honesty, accuracy, and integrity. Our words must embody truth. “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow” (Proverbs 25:18, NLT).
  2. Is it kind? With our words we build up or tear down. Is our motivation to benefit the hearer, or is it to get something off our chest? “Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24).
  3. Is it necessary? Is there a sense of urgency to avert danger or avoid a costly mistake? Perhaps it is essential to speak up on behalf of some else, or to highlight their positive achievements. Don’t use an opportunity to pridefully show off your knowledge. Instead determine necessity by being others-focused. “Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4).
  4. Is the timing right? Is the audience able to give their undivided attention? Is there space to interact? If not, wait. Our words and the timing of delivery must both be right. “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket” (Proverbs 25:11).

Our words are designed to make a difference. In our families and in the places we lead, our words can set the tone of honoring God and one another, creating an environment of health, respect, caring, learning, and thriving.