I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking lately about words. Words that we say to ourselves. Words that we say to others. Words that we hear from others. Words that have power.

We all know that the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is one of the most untrue statements in the world. Whoever changed that to “…but words can hurt the most” made it much more accurate.

Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can encourage. Words can destroy. The power of a single word is so strong, and yet, we tend to let our words fly without any concern for how they sound or what they are doing to the person they are directed to.

There are a few different areas in which the power of words has become very apparent to me lately.

  1. When I am running and I am tired, sometimes the difference between finishing a run and having to walk comes down to the words I am telling myself. If I am rehearsing how tired I feel, how my legs feel like lead, how my breathing is struggling, etc., you can bet that I will be walking soon. But if I am saying to myself that I have this, I can do this, I am a strong runner, my lungs are feeling good, etc., it is amazing how much strength and energy that gives me and I can finish the run.
  2. When you have kids, particularly a daughter that is 11 and the change from a smile to tears happens in a nanosecond, you quickly realize that your words make a huge difference in how quickly the tears change back to a smile. I am finding that I have to be very careful in how I respond to her these days and am trying to use words that build her up and encourage her in this time of her life that is scary and constantly changing.
  3. When life is difficult, we often tend to commiserate with others about how hard things are. But, if we would instead talk about the things that are going well, and look for those things that are positive in our lives, our attitudes would be greatly different, even about the hard stuff. It’s easy to wallow. It’s hard to rise above it. But if we choose to speak those positive words, we would notice an overall change in our outlook.

There are many other areas where our words are important: how we speak to our friends, co-workers, spouses, etc. It is so important for us to speak positive, encouraging words that build up rather than tear down, whether it be for ourselves or those around us. Yet it is so hard sometimes. But that is when we need to pray Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips,” and we need to make sure that what is going into us is positive so that what is coming out is positive as well.

Let’s work on that together.

When is it hardest for you to speak words that encourage?