It was a one word gut punch I never saw coming. The fog it caused along with the momentum it stole caught me off guard. It was only one word. How could it have been so jarring? And, the kicker…it wasn’t even spoken to me! To top it off, the person who launched the four syllable attack didn’t even know I was caught in their cross fire. They still don’t. Yet, the impact of their opinion still stung.

What happened? Someone who I respect, someone whose work has helped me grow, someone whose effort I appreciate was told they were “unqualified.”  It really rocked my world. The person has an advanced degree in their area of influence, they have studied and worked on their craft, they have taught thousands but still were labeled “unqualified.”

The word penetrated deep into my soul and left me questioning how much more unqualified am I? It was an impactful personal reminder of a lesson I’ve learned, we’ve all learned before.

Words have power.

Words have tremendous power.

Once I realized the source of my derailment, I was able to do something about it. I began to get back on track and rebuild my momentum. The experience has been a bit like putting on a new prescription of glasses allowing me to see a few things around me more clearly. This new vision it’s given me has been equally jarring.

I haven’t had to look far to see words being used as weapons. On Facebook, a friend preparing for a speaking engagement was challenged by a colleague with the same cutting word I had just heard “unqualified.” Her friends flooded her page with support and uplifting comments in response. But, one post stood out from all of the others. It was a snarky judgmental reply, condemning the entire state where the woman was speaking. The sharp words stung with bitterness, completely lacking any compassion whatsoever. I was left to wonder why? Why post a comment that casts a wide net of hurt?

Perhaps because it has become easy, too easy. Social media allows us to type our raw, unfiltered, unedited thoughts and hurl them out at the masses. But we have a choice. We can choose to build up and encourage as so many of my friends comments reflected. Or we can tear down and destroy.

Our words can fall on people like an uncovered sneeze on a crowded subway train, or like candy cast from a float at a holiday parade. The choice is ours.

If we choose the sneeze method of communication:

  • People will want to brush off our words in disgust.
  • We will sow destructive seeds of negativity.
  • The fruit we will produce is doubt, discouragement, anxiety, anger, discord, disharmony, and discontentment.
  • We will repel people.
  • We talk at people, not with people.
  • Negativity can destroy people.
  • The damage can linger for years.

If we choose the candy method of communication:

  • People will hold on to our words and consider our opinion.
  • We will sow seeds of growth. (iron sharpens iron)
  • The fruit we produce will be love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. (the fruit of the spirit Gal 5:22-23)
  • We will draw in people.
  • Encouragement helps people grow.
  • The benefit can linger for years.

Both our encouraging words and our destructive words impact more than the intended recipient. The ripples travel out from the point of impact, what kind of ripples depends upon our choice of words.

Words have power. Choose wisely.

I’d love to hear from you! Please comment and join the conversation. And, if you’ve been blessed by this, please share it with your friends.