One word…one sentence…makes more of an impact than you know. Just as a stone ripples the water when thrown into the lake, our words impact all who hear them. Words fling open the door for others to be encouraged and feel confident or words close the door and bring thoughts of inadequacy and failure. What are the words you hear? What are the words you speak? Let’s open the door and think about the power of our words.
November seems to be the time of the year that we stop and consider all that we are thankful for. Gratitude becomes the word of the month and I believe that it is powerful to look around and ponder the things for which we are grateful! Appreciation and gratitude was going to be the focus of this piece, but life happens and the experiences of the day are dictating a slight re-routing of my thoughts.
Today at a Bible Study, I was reminded about the words that we say. The words that come from our mouths have tremendous power…the power to encourage, the power to comfort, the power to guide, the power to change, the power to pierce, the power to hurt. How we internalize the words spoken to us impacts our personal self-worth and often dictates our attitude and our direction for many years to come. Several of the women today shared words that had been said to them as children which were not true, but dictated for years their beliefs about who they were and the lack of capabilities they thought they had.
As a leader, a parent or a friend you have the opportunity to plant seeds of ENCOURAGEment or roots of despair. It is just as easy to plant one as the other, but we must be intentional about the direction our words steer others. I loved having the opportunity to be a middle school principal! I often tell people that middle school students get a bad rap. They often come across as lethargic and disrespectful. It is important to remember that they are really just little kids growing into their big bodies looking for and finding their self-worth and sense of identity. One of my favorite daily activities was to stand in the hall and greet the students with a variety of comments such as, “You have the best smile.” “That color looks great on you!” “I love what your shirt says.” “Thanks for holding the door for me.” These short brief statements may not have made a huge impact, but I believe that students were encouraged as they passed by.
As a leader, a spouse or a friend, it is important to APPRECIATE one another. It makes such a difference to people if you just take the time to understand and appreciate what they do. Unfortunately, my intentions to appreciate are often great ideas that sometimes have difficulty coming to fruition. One year, I intended to write a personal note to each member of my staff telling them exactly what it was that I appreciated about them. While I fell short of my goal in getting all of my notes written, the notes that were received made a difference to those who got them. An icebreaker activity that worked well for me was to take a minute at the beginning of a monthly staff meeting and provide note cards to everyone and allow five minutes for them to write a note of appreciation to another staff member. The following day, the notes were distributed. Before putting the notes of appreciation in the mailboxes of the staff members, we made sure that there was at least one note for everyone. If there was someone who was not written a note, the leadership team took the time to write them a note of appreciation. A little dose of appreciation goes a long way! Appreciate those you love the most - your spouse and those in your family. My husband thanks me every week for doing the laundry and making sure he has clean clothes to wear. I will tell you that his comments make doing the laundry much more palatable.
Sometimes as a leader or a parent, we need to ADVISE. These are the trickiest words we must say. Often people that you lead – including your children, need a directional change. If not careful, these are the words that can root despair. Advice and correction can be given without damaging someone’s self-worth. The child that is told he is stupid for making a poor decision begins to tell himself that he really is stupid. Those words are hard to erase and hang on for years until we finally realize that those words were not true. A parent giving correction can instead say, “I’m really sorry that you made the decision that you did and are getting the consequences that come with that decision. There are other options you could have chosen.” The child comes away from the correction unscathed. Teachers often worry and have great concerns over being evaluated by their administrator. If the education world and the business world could look at a process of advisement (here are the things you do so well – here are the things that will make you better/stronger at what you do) instead of evaluating, what a difference that might make! What if our words to advise actually turned into words to INSPIRE?
Two other words that go hand in hand: “I’m SORRY.” Will you FORGIVE me? I am sure that I have said things over the years to those I worked with, to my husband and to my children that were not encouraging and could have been stated better. I can only at this point apologize and try to do better to make my words those of encouragement. I want those I lead to be proud of their accomplishments and I want to make sure that I take the time to appreciate them. I want to encourage my husband and take the time to let him know daily the love I have for him. I want my children to know that I am so proud of all they have accomplished and the perseverance they show in all circumstances.
Today, what are the words you will say? I love the song “The Words I Would Say”, by the Sidewalk Prophets. Here is just a part of the song:
I started writing just what I’d say if we were face to face
I’d tell you just what you mean to me – to tell you these simple truths
Be strong in the Lord and never give up hope.
You’re gonna do great things I already know
God’s got his hand on you so don’t live life in fear
Forgive and forget, but don’t forget why you’re here
Take your time and pray, these are the words I would say
Today what one word will you say? Who will you encourage? Who will you appreciate? Who are you grateful for in your life? How will you let them know? Will you plant seeds of encouragement or roots of despair? You get to choose and at the end of the day you will have made a difference…one way or another. I know that you’re going to choose great things…
Encourage…Appreciate… Inspire... Forgive…
The final "one word" for today: CHERISH...Cherish today - it only comes once!