Words. I love words! We all use them... through thoughts, text, pen and paper, or verbal communication, even those of us who are quieter are constantly using and processing words. They are a way to praise our Lord (Psalm 105:1), save and share memories and mercies (Psalm 78:5-8), and encourage others to pursue righteousness (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Of course, the opposite can happen when we do not use our words wisely, and we all know that it can cause trouble and many tears. "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (James 3:5). But "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." (Proverbs 25:11), and these are the type of words we want to use. I've had words and encouraging others on my mind a lot lately. I know I am not nearly encouraging enough, and I often make sarcastic and even hurtful remarks, especially to my younger siblings when I think they are taking too long with something that I am waiting for them to finish. And so lately, I have been thinking through the question, what exactly are words of encouragement, fitly spoke?
Are "words of kindness" only those words that I think that the other person wants to hear? Are they false praise just so that I can make the other person "feel good" about themselves? Are they maybe any words I want to say, no matter how cutting, as long as I "kindly" say them in a sticky sweet voice? These types of words may sound "kind" by the world's standards, but are they truly "fitly spoken" words? Kind, encouraging, timely words are so much more than this! They can come in the form of praise, yes. But they can also come in the form of encouragement to do right , and even pointing out the negative, when done through love.
Several years ago, Mama and Tori and I were planning a fun afternoon, but Tori wasn't finished with a project yet, and was running out of time. As I walked by her, I stopped to tell her, "I want you to be able to enjoy this with us. You still have time to finish before we start, if you work really hard!" I walked by with no idea that I had said anything that would have a real impact on her, but she came to me later, work completed and ready to join us, and told me, "Thank you for encouraging me earlier." I had no idea what she was talking about until she explained, "Knowing that you really wanted me to have fun with you and Mommy really encouraged me to actually try to finish on time." I had no idea that all she needed to spur her on was the fact that her contribution was a valued one, but her simple words afterwards encouraged me that it doesn't have to be big to be a blessing to someone else! I couldn't at that point in time praise her for finishing her work, but I could encourage her to do so.
With that thought, what are some of the others ways that we could show kindness through our words that we might not think of when we think of "kind words"? Maybe your Mom would share with you that she saw you doing or saying something that she thinks you could have done better without. Are these unkind words? Though our human flesh might tend to think so in the moment, because we are all sinful beings, and our hearts find it easier to embrace our desires than the words of Christ, your Mom is simply trying to protect, train, and care for you in the best way that she knows how, and this is one of the best ways that a person could be kind to us! Or maybe you have a friend that has told you about a situation that is going on, and you know that the Lord is asking you to point out the ways that she could work through it that would be more to His glory. Pointing out the issue can be hard. But if you had a friend or family member who saw that you were headed in the wrong direction, would you really want them to be silent? You might not like what they have to say at first, but would it really be kind of them not to point out a sin because they think maybe you would take it as unkind?
Of course, you can have the best intentions and still use unkind words. You could be following the Lord's commands to the letter, and be "encouraging" others to do the same in such a way that they never want anything to do with it. Simply telling them to "do this" or to "do that" can not be our goal. Encouragement to do right will only be true encouragement if it comes from a heart following the Lord (Luke 6:45). As with everything else in our life, our starting point must be planted in righteousness... and this can only come through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to die for our sins, because no heart is good on it's own. And even on the cross, hung there by our sins, by our evil deeds, by our ungodly words and tones... when he could not say "well done, thou good and faithful servant", because we in our own attempts at righteousness will always fail at our best, he still uttered those last loving words, "Forgive them". He had every right on that cross to speak words of eternal doom, to prove that he was God by coming off that cross and never paying for our transgressions, but he would not, and because of his sacrifice, we now have the words of comfort, "if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin" fulfilled. He has bought us as His own, and as we praise Him for His love, we will also desire to share that love with those we meet, through our actions and through our words. Nobody is perfect. We have not yet reached heaven, and Christ is still continuing to break our hearts of stone. But through Jesus' grace, He will make us more and more like him!
I am praying that the Lord would make me tender to the words I use. I want to be more thankful -how many times has someone done something Daddy had originally asked me to do and I've barely acknowledged them? I want to be more encouraging to those things that others are working on. Something simple, like Peter picking up a toy and putting it away without being asked, is still big enough to merit a "good job!". I want to be less critical. So many things that I bring up for the sake of "correcting" an issue could just as well be left alone. And when I do have to bring up an issue, I pray that I would remember to do so with a "soft answer that turns away wrath", rather than simply doing it to satisfy my own harsh standards for perfection in others when I can not even keep myself to that standard. And though my best efforts will be as filthy rags, in Christ they can be made white as snow. Praise him for his great gift of Salvation!