Lately, I’ve thought a lot about the power of words. These thoughts were brought on following a Sunday morning when I was the recipient of both encouragement and harsh criticism. The irony is they took place in a short period of time, like minutes apart. As I am sure is the case for you, I prefer the former rather than the later. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the power of constructive criticism, but that wasn’t what I received. It was harsh, hateful and the purpose was to hurt me.
Early in my ministry before smartphones made instant email access possible, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I remember opening my email on Monday mornings with a little fear and trepidation. Now with technology being as advanced as it is I don’t have to wait until Monday morning any longer. I can literally receive the encouragement and/or criticism immediately. Like before the last chord has faded away. Don’t get the wrong impression; I am blessed to serve alongside a group of people who are far more encouraging than they are critical. Unfortunately, we are all sinful people, and it is possible for each of us to harness the chariot of criticism and ride into the sunset leaving a trail of devastation and damage behind.
You see, each and every week, there are literally 100s of people who know how I could do my job more effectively. Sometimes they are indeed right and sometimes they are not! I appreciate those who seek to share out of a desire for me to be a better version of myself. Likewise, I have an equal lack of appreciation for those who are mean spirited.
Being a dad, I have the opportunity to remind my children about the importance of choosing words wisely. And then, occasionally, I realize that they are speaking in a way they’ve heard me speak. These moments hurt me far more than anything anyone else could ever say to me because I recognize I’ve forsaken my responsibility to teach them well. It is in these moments my Heavenly Father reminds me that I am not perfect, and I have a great opportunity to show them what true repentance looks like. On the flip side of that scenario, when they demonstrate the ability to edify and encourage I have the privilege to affirm them in their right choice(s).
The tongue is a powerful tool that the enemy likes to use for his pleasure, but my God desires to use for His good. Encouragement is an incredible gift you can give to someone. We never know how God is going to use our words to impact another person’s life. Choose your words wisely. If a situation arises where tough words need to be shared, do so with a kind, gentle and loving spirit. Also, consider the timing of your words and for the love of all that is good and right, pray about what and if you should say something before you ever do so. One thing you can never take back is a word that has been spoken so proceed with caution.
Email, texting, and instant messages are wonderful tools but can land you in a world of trouble if you press send before thinking it through. If you didn’t enjoy something in worship during the 8:30 AM worship experience keep in mind that your leadership still has another experience to lead and doing so while processing your criticism that you kindly shot off at 9:45 AM isn’t fair for them or the congregation they are seeking to lead later in the day.
All of this can be boiled down to these truths. Be kind! Demonstrate love! Control your tongue! If you can do these things your love for God and others will shine much brighter. The old saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is certainly applicable here!
James 3 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says,he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.