11 Jul Speaking Words of Life
“I just need to see if you’re crazy.”
A friend of mine said this to me one day as we were setting up a time to discuss what was going on in my life. Some people, even me five years earlier, would have found this insulting and mean. But because of our relationship and the fact that I knew he had my best interest at heart, it was probably the most comforting thing anyone has ever said to me. He was willing to invest his time and wisdom in my life and help me plan the direction I needed to go. We set aside a time a few weeks later to talk at length about the things I was seeing at work and get his take on it. I had recently changed jobs for the first time in 26 years and was looking to do it again. I had gone from the most secure job scenario—a school counselor at a school and district where I had the most seniority—to being the new kid on the block at an educational services business. My friend wanted to see if I was overreacting to normal business protocol or if I had legitimate concerns. I wanted to know the same but didn’t know how or who to ask. I am grateful for his willingness to intrude in something and question my thoughts and actions- “I just need to see if you’re crazy.” His words were full of direction and hope.
On another occasion, I was in an environment with Spanish speakers, English speakers, and several people who were bilingual. I had just finished a conversation with a friend I have known for far more years than either of us will admit to. We both turned to talk to other people but didn’t physically move. As I finished my conversation, I heard her say something in Spanish that I knew meant “has strong opinions.” As I turned my head, I realized she was pointing at me. I quickly asked for a recap in English. She repeated what she had just said, but this time in English. Her description of me was positive, and if I am honest, she described me in terms that I struggle to see myself—except for the strong opinions part—I totally see that. Her words were life-giving and encouraging.
“There are varied ways to love each other well with our words. This involves knowing God and being connected to Him, as well as living in community with others.”
These seem like two very different situations. One was something I accidentally overheard. The other was something a friend pursued me to share. One was praise, and the other seemed confrontational. On the surface, most people would not see these words in the same light or give them the same weight and result. But they absolutely were equal in value and importance to me. Both people used their words in a kind manner. They both had my best interest at heart. These two situations remind me our words are critical. The differences in these situations tell me that there are varied ways to love each other well with our words. This involves knowing God and being connected to Him, as well as living in community with others. These two friends have known me for a while and they know me well. They also know God well enough to speak in a life-giving way. They apply the Bible’s instructions for our words in passages like Ephesians 4:15, Proverbs 31:26, Proverbs 25:11, and 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
“When choosing your words— do you care enough about others to use your words well? Are you willing to have difficult conversations? Do you seek opportunities to build others up?”
As I think about these situations and others, both positive and negative, I simultaneously am convicted of the power and the brokenness of my words. I am never more aware of the power of words than when I do my periodic organizing and decluttering bouts on a break from school. When I come across saved notes and emails of kind, uplifting, and encouraging thoughts, the power in their positive words is never lost on me. However, it’s always interesting that I never need a reminder of the negative ones—I can typically recall those without help. When friends look back on what I have said to them, do my negative words stick out to them, or are they washed over with the reflection and encouragement of my words?
When choosing your words— do you care enough about others to use your words well? Are you willing to have difficult conversations? Do you seek opportunities to build others up?
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
“When she speaks, her words are wise, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26
Can these things be said of the words you use?
Barbara is a high school counselor, unlikely CrossFit convert, and Clemson Tiger fan. She loves her therapy dog, Scooter, and niece and nephews (not necessarily in that order).