Several years ago, (I will not reveal the number of years to protect the writer), my wife and I were teaching Sunday School for second graders. The lesson we had that week was on the power of words from the book of James. The passages spoke of how our tongues can set off all kinds of trouble or how our words can speak life to others. It is amazing how with one small part of our body, we can create and yet, destroy ourselves and those around us.
To illustrate the point, we gave each kid a tube of toothpaste, a stick, and a plate. We had them perform “toothpaste art”. So for about 15 minutes the kids smeared toothpaste all around the plate and just had a ball. I then took out a new $20 bill and told the kids, whoever could put all the toothpaste back into the tube would get the money. It was fun seeing kids scramble to try to get the paste back in, but all soon realized it was impossible. The lesson was this is like our words. When we say something careless, we can ask for forgiveness, but it would have been better if we had not said it in the first place.
These are lessons I am still learning. Do I speak encouragement and help others achieve more with my words, or do I cut down and destroy folks? Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on one good compliment.” Think of the last time you received a great compliment and how it impacted your life. Those are times that we will never forget. I can close my eyes and still hear my dad telling me how proud he was of me when I graduated college, or hear my wife tell me what great things I would accomplish when I took over the helm at Midwest Business.
As much as I enjoy and relish in those words, it also forces me to see what impact my words are having on others. Do my family, friends, co-workers, members, clients, and acquaintances find my words life-giving, or am I a downer? Do people want to be around me to find encouragement, or do they avoid me, thinking that what I will say is always critical and hurtful? Are you one of those people who others gravitate toward because you lift them up?
If you are unsure if your words are beneficial, you may want to think about the “4 Way Test”, authored by Herbert J. Taylor and used by Rotary Clubs. Ask yourself the following:
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and better friendships?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?