Words create worlds. That old axiom may not be in the Bible, but it is true. Scripture’s way of saying the same thing is found in Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) The tongue has the power of life and death.
Every single one of us could give testimony to the truthfulness of those words in Proverbs 18. We can go back in our minds to the teacher or coach or grandparent who spoke life-giving words to us. We can remember how much wind it put in our sails when they said those 4 magical words to us… “I believe in you.”
We can also go back in our minds to hurtful and attacking words that scarred us. And even though it may have been years ago, we can remember it and still feel the emotion of it like it was yesterday.
The words in our past echo in our present and they continue to shape our lives today. Words have incredible power.
And that is doubly true for you as a pastor and leader. As a leader, your words carry more weight and they have more staying power. Your words get amplified and magnified.
Through the years I have been amazed how many people have come up to me to thank me for something I said to them that impacted their lives. The scary part is how often I didn’t even remember saying anything to them.
So, I want to spend this week and next week talking from the book of Proverbs about how we can steward the power of our words.
1. Use words to bless
We need to become experts at speaking life-giving words. Let’s be honest. It’s tough out there in the world. We do not live in a grace and love filled world. In this world, you get what you pay for (sometimes). NO free lunch. NO cutting in line. Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth.
Like the great philosopher, Norm, from Cheers said “It’s a dog eat dog world and I’m wearing milkbone underwear.”
But we get the privilege of speaking life and blessing and hope and encouragement into the lives of people.
Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)
And here’s the great news. It doesn’t cost you a dime to do this and it doesn’t require a line item in your church budget. And this isn’t about spiritual gifts or personality. This is about sensitivity and love and kindness.
Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12:25 (NLT)
I remember when I was in a particularly tough season of life and ministry. It’s a long story, but take my word for it, I was not doing well. And one day my assistant handed me a personal letter for me that had come to the church. I didn’t recognize the name on the return address. I opened it up and it was a two page hand-written letter from the mom of one of the guys that was on my team.
In the letter she talked about how much I had influenced her son. That letter came at just the right time. I folded it up and put it in the pocket of my planner and over the next few months I read the letter several times. I can’t even begin to tell you how much life I took from that two-page letter. And it was all because someone took the time to speak life-giving words.
I think of how God the Father modeled this for us. At the baptism of Jesus, the Father’s audible voice out of heaven said This is my dearly loved son, who brings me great joy. Matthew 3:17 (NLT)
If God thought it was important to speak blessing on his perfect, sinless son, how important is it for us to speak life into people who are broken, sinful, and filled with shame.
The biggest enemy of blessing people with your words is not meanness or selfishness, it is HURRY. So, slow down today and speak blessing into someone’s life.
2. Learn the art of good delivery
What is the difference between a good pitcher and a great pitcher?
DELIVERY, and maybe steroids but that is a for a different article.
To use another analogy, the most dangerous part of any airplane flight is the landing. And just before the airplane lands, they will talk about the plane being “on approach”. The approach is critical for a successful landing. Your approach with words is critical to successful relationships.
Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person's lips bring satisfaction. Proverbs 18:20 (NLT)
It is the “right words” that bring satisfaction. And it’s not just the right words, it’s also the right deliver of the right words. That’s the point Solomon is making in Proverbs 25:15 (NLT) Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can crush strong opposition.
Learn to be soft with your words. When you have to have a hard conversation, think ahead of time not just about “what” you want to say, but “how” you want to say it.
By the way, you can be clear and still be soft.
In my life, the biggest roadblock to soft words is an empty soul. When I am running on fumes, my words are cutting, not kind. When I am leading on empty, my words are too often cynical, not soft.
So, today, steward the power of your words well. And remember, what you say matters!