By Joni Eareckson Tada
Sometimes the Bible asks an awful lot of us. Take Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that everyone will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” One day we’ll have to explain our every word! Obviously God places a great deal of importance on what we say–words have a curious power to make living things wither and die, or bring dead things to life. As it says in Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”
We women possess such incredible power–all in what we say. It’s something I’ve especially learned being a quadriplegic married to my strong, able-bodied husband. I may not be able to whip up an omelet for him or rub his back, but I can honor and uplift him with words that give life, hope, and encouragement. It’s what I do every day with Ken. I will tell him, “Ken, thank you for going to visit that neighbor who has cancer… that was a thoughtful thing to do.” Or, “Ken, I’m so grateful you’re a man of prayer–God bless you for always taking the lead and inviting people to pray. Good for you!”
Never have I seen a man respond so happily to encouraging words. It’s called affirmation. Not flattery or sweet, smooth talk just to get your way; rather, I mean pronouncements and declarations of the good you see in someone else… or at least the good you want to encourage. If the good you see in another seems infinitesimally small, then encourage and nurture it as you would a tiny seedling in unyielding ground. Don’t talk down to people; talk up to them.
There are great ways to affirm others. You could commend someone on their committee report before moving to the next item on the agenda. Or explaining that what inspired you to do a good action was the other person’s example like, “I brought coffee cake for the office because I see how much the staff enjoys it when you consistently do thoughtful things.”
If you really want to affirm a neighbor, loan her something of value–your prized recipe book, the use of your car, or your fine china. When you place something of value in the hands of another, it’s a signal that you notice a virtue in the other person that elevates your confidence in her trustworthiness. And finally, how about writing a note of encouragement to a child in your life? I can’t tell you how many mothers have told me how much they appreciate it when I write their child to thank them for something they gave me or did for me. You can’t do better than affirm a child.
Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Friend, your good words can gladden the hearts of the people around you today. Your words cannot only touch, but can actually change another’s heart. So whether it’s said in an email, in person, in a letter, over the phone, or in a note, remember that what you say today has the capacity to transform the countenance and the character of others. And the best word of all? How about giving the Word Himself, Jesus Christ, who always has wonderful words of life?