Speaking words of affirmation has never come easily to me. My personality lends itself to being acutely accurate and my speech tends to be to the point, leaving very little room for me to truly affirm the people in my life. However, there was a turning point when I began to grasp how truly my words and even my lack of words affected me and the people in my life. That turning point was witnessing a friend using her words to give life. I watched as she complimented someone whom the world would say was not worthy of the words and praise she gave. I don't think my friend lies when she speaks to others. I believe she has a heart of love for her friends and she sees the best in people. I distinctly remember watching her and thinking here is a girl who seems to have it all - what the world and even the church world often consider success. Yet, she was not prideful or competitive in how she dealt with and spoke to others. Her words and her treatment of others only enhanced her outward beauty and my respect for her.
What I've learned is the more I look for opportunities to speak kind words, the more it changes the way I see those around me. It changes the way I feel towards others. When I come across someone who has hurt me or where I feel unforgiveness toward someone, looking for ways to speak kind words helps me move past and work through some of my negative feelings. Yet, when I do not consider my words, when I try to use my words to cast someone in a negative light or to make myself look better, it oftentimes creates a downward spiral of negative talk that spins out of control. The hurtful words I speak or think about someone start to fester like an open wound in my own spirit. My mood and my outlook on life and the way I interact with others is affected. In no time, a root of bitterness can begin to grow up in me causing all kinds of dissatisfaction and ugliness inside me. It is an absolutely miserable place to be.
Proverbs 15:4 says, "The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit." This verse not only applies to how our words affect another person but how they affect us as we speak them. Whether we speak kind words or hurtful words, our kind words affect us in a positive way while our hurtful words affect us in a negative way. Think about how you carry around the weight of the words you speak, are you a life giver or are you harboring bitterness? Before you speak, think about the power your words have not just in someone else's life but also in your own life. Consider what Matthew says, "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him" [Matthew 12:35]. Our words are truly a reflection of our hearts.
Instead of letting our thoughts and words rot our souls, we must seek to be a wellspring of life. Proverbs 15 goes on to tell us "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit" and "A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!" [vs. 13 and 23] Let us be women who fill our hearts with God's love. Let us be women with happy hearts whose words have power in our marriages, in our children's lives, in our work relationships, and in our friendships to be a source of life, to be soothing and healing to the soul.