Summary: We have the power in our tongue to build people up or tear them down. Let’s use that power for the good and discover the tremendous power of encouragement
The Power of an Encouraging Word
Do you remember that old cowboy song called “Home on the Range”? One of the lines says, “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word.” What a powerful statement that is if you really think about it. Imagine what life would be like without discouraging words. People would be free to chase after their dreams without being shot down by negative bystanders. Peer pressure to do bad things would be nonexistent because there would be no negative consequences for not being a part of the crowd. Crime would go down. Depression rates would go down. People would be content with just being themselves and not trying to copy someone else. The world would truly be a better place.
While I realize that this is an ideal that will only be truly realized in Heaven, but I wonder what would happen if we tried to grab a piece of it right now. I mean, just stop and think about the power that we possess when we speak to other people. We hold in our hands the power to build up or the power to destroy. We can make people feel good about themselves or make them feel bad. We can make them want to step out to reach their dreams, or crush their hopes with one negative utterance.
The Bible says this in James:
So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
7People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, 8but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. 9Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. 10And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
This scripture warns us about the tremendous damage that we can do with careless words. We should never underestimate the disastrous effect our words can have on another person. We literally have the power to speak life or death to them. We can build them up with encouragement or tear them down and sometimes even wound them very deeply with a negative word. The choice is ours.
Let me tell you a story about the power of encouragement. One time when I was at church, I saw one of the young girls with a blue cowboy hat. It was obviously new and it had a white feather on it. The first thought that flew into my mind was that it was a little bit gaudy and I felt like saying something like, “Aren’t you the little cowgirl today?” Thankfully, instead of letting those careless words tumble out of my mouth, I thought, “Why don’t I say something different? You know, the hat actually looks nice on her. I should tell her that.”
So I did just that. I said, “That’s a very pretty hat you have on.” It doesn’t seem like a simple phrase like that would have much effect, but you should have seen what happened next. Her countenance visibly changed. It was like a smile came over her entire body, and you could almost feel her beaming when she answered, “Thanks, my mommy just bought it for me!” I was almost floored. I had just witnessed the incredible power that a simple word of encouragement had on another person and I realized that I would have blown it had I said the first foolish thing that popped into my head.