How generous are you with your words?
I can’t recall if I saw it on the Golf Channel or in a golf magazine in the dentist’s office, but I remember an inspirational story about professional golfer Graeme McDowell. The year was 2006, the month was July, and the tournament was the British Open, one of golf’s four major championships. McDowell was not playing well and he was having trouble figuring out how to correct his poor and inconsistent play in preparation for one of the year’s toughest tests.
One night before the start of the four-day tournament, McDowell received an unexpected surprise. He was out for dinner and a stranger who happened to be a golf fan recognized him. The man struck up a conversation and suggested that he noticed a flaw in Graeme’s golf swing. Imagine you are a professional and someone offers you advice in improving your performance. How would you respond? Graeme was gracious to the person and went on his way.
When he got to the practice range the next morning, McDowell tested the advice. He was stunned when he realized that the fan had been absolutely right in his diagnosis and recommendation. He immediately saw results when the swing correction was applied. He decided to implement the swing change and finished the first day of the British Open in first place! Who would have figured the advice of a stranger in a pub would have mattered?
Read Ephesians 4:17-32…and zero in on verse 29.
I have learned that words are like that. They are powerful instruments for good or bad. You remember the children’s rhyme that “sticks and stones may hurt my bones,” but words can hurt too. We can use words to build up, inspire, encourage, or chastise, demean, and tear down. I remember a student who was told by her dad that she would never amount to anything, and certainly not like her older brother. I recall a professor ridiculing a student in class for their Christian beliefs and attempting to humiliate them in front of the class. In both cases, the students overcame the potential destruction of the words hurled at them by realizing who they were in Christ. They did not cave in to the possible hurt, or allow themselves to be defined in a negative way by a person in power over them at the time. They found victory in and through Jesus and His Word. They learned to turn negative words into proactive action.
When you meet with people, don’t focus on making yourself look good, but look for ways to build them up. Before you meet with someone, think about something encouraging you can say: It could be something they have done for you or a friend; an accomplishment or achievement to celebrate; a character quality you admire, or an example of how they live out their values.
Regardless, start today to add value to the people you meet by the words you use. I believe this is the idea Solomon had when he wrote in Proverbs 15:23, “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in season, how good it is.”
Live communally. In a society where words can be used cheaply (even abbreviated in social media usage), or used and wielded as weapons (not just in political campaigns), we should use our words as tools to build up the hearts and courage of others. Good and gentle words are more powerful than bad and angry ones. Who can you give a timely word of help to this week?
Love is a verb,