by Shirley Brosius
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 BSB
After taking in mail for a friend while she vacationed, she sent me a gift—six small LED flashlights. How practical, I thought, as I distributed them throughout our home. When I called to thank her, she said, “You know why I got you those flashlights, don’t you?” She explained that once, when our power had failed and I was caught without a light, I told her I was going to have my husband put flashlights in every room of the house. She wanted to furnish those lights. My friend remembered my words months after I had spoken . . . and forgotten . . . them.
Our words—whether delightful or derogatory—impact others. They plant seeds. And their words affect us. I still remember the words of a patient pastor to always read the Bible in context when I, as a new Christian, visited him with questions about Bible passages. I still remember the words of teachers who told me I could go to college to become a teacher even though I lacked finances.
A woman once approached me at a church bazaar to tell me how much it meant to her when, 40 years earlier, I invited her to serve on her high school yearbook staff. She said she would never have had the confidence to join had I not encouraged her. It turned out to be such a positive experience for her. Truth be told, she was doing me, as yearbook advisor, a favor. She was an excellent student, and I knew she would be an asset to the staff. But little did I know how insecure she felt.
The words we hear may bless our lives, but I also hear the cruel words of teasing classmates echo across the decades. They knocked down my self-esteem and made me feel bad about getting good grades and having a lanky body.
An older sister often joked that my legs were my redeeming feature. I suppose she meant it as a compliment, but it made me wonder what was wrong with the rest of me. Why did the rest of my body need redemption?
In his letter, James warned of the destruction words could cause: “See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tone is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and set on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6 NASB). Just a few misplaced words have potential to change a life, for better or worse.
We dole out words on a daily basis—to children, spouses, coworkers, friends and even store clerks. We communicate through emails, text messages, phone calls and face-to-face conversations. Do we think about the messages we send through the words we choose? Do we realize that we plant seeds or sow weeds with our words?
What words do we allow to enter our minds? Do the characters we watch on television show grace or do they promote crudeness and rudeness in relationships? Do our children learn words of disrespect for authority by the shows we allow them to watch? Even game show hosts may promote sarcasm and disdain for the inept.
As they say, “garbage in/garbage out.” We need to watch not only our own words but the words of others to evaluate how they affect us and our families. Do they make you doubt your uniqueness as a person made in the image of God?
Go out today and encourage someone to use their God-given abilities to step up to the plate, whatever that plate may be. Mind your words because others mind them as well. Plant seeds and block weeds from growing in your garden of relationships.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: An author and speaker from Millersburg, Pennsylvania, Shirley Brosius has written Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference and coauthored Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. She speaks at women’s events throughout the east as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages, skits and song. Shirley has a daughter waiting in heaven, and she enjoys passing on inspirational thoughts and books to two married sons and five grandchildren.
Join the conversation: What impacts have the words of others had on your life?