Recently I was at a fast food joint, catching a bite, replying to emails. About 15ft from me, at a smaller table, was a girl, age 12, 13ish, with a smartphone in her hands. She was playing a game. Across the table was her brother, age 9 or 10. Brother was asking the sister if he could play the game she was playing.
Sister said, No.
And the boy lost his soul.
He didn’t just lose his mind. He lost his soul.
He said these comments to his sister,
I hate you!
You’re the ugliest person in the world!
I wish you were dead!
Their dad was at the same table reading the news on his phone. Just sat there.
And so did I.
That sister/daughter isn’t going to forget those words.
Simply stated, words are powerful.
The tongue has the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21)
The words that we use during the week have the ability to bring encouragement into our relationships, or to harm them.
Show me a relationship that no longer exists and I’ll show you people who either said words that harmed someone or didn’t say words that would’ve healed and brought life.
I want to share 5 ideas on how we can better care for each other, to help our communication at home, at work, at school, with friends, even with God. Here’s how we lay that foundation:
(1) Speak Affirmation.
Why is it easier to complain than it is to be grateful? Why is it easier to tear down than it is to build up? Why is it easier to take and take and take without ever giving back?
The ping-ponging of hurtful words can seriously damage a relationship, whereas constantly choosing praise and affirmation towards others can change their life and grow you closer together.
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)
It’s a husband who plans a date night with his wife. He sets up the sitter, gets the reservation, gets dressed up with her, they’re out to eat and it’s good food, laughing, and at a point in the conversation, the husband stops, pauses, looks at his wife and says, I want you to know how amazed I am at you. You do so much to take care of us.
It’s when a mom speaks to her kids before dad gets home from a long day, and she says, Daddy works so hard for us – let’s hug him tightly and let him know how loved he is when he comes through the door.
It’s when a parent chooses to praise their kid, not when it comes to their grades, or their athletic or artistic ability, but the parent praises the godly characteristics in the child. They were scared but they trusted God. They were picked on, but they chose kindness. They saw someone lonely and included that person. They were patient when they needed something. They were grateful with no ulterior motive.
On social media mom and dad are posting about their kids non stop with. Look what my kid did!. Look what my kid can do! God’s like, That’s awesome, great job. I’m more interested in who your kid is. Praise the goodness that is in them.
Every time I’m ordering food, I let the person behind the register or the waiter/waitress know I am thankful for them. I say, Thanks for working today.– And they’re always taken back by that simple comment because no one thanks them.
How is your discipline of appreciation at work?
How is your gratitude toward the coaches that mentor your kids?
How is your gratefulness toward someone you think of in your past who really inspired you to be more than you thought you could be? Write them a note to say thanks.
Bring affirmation into each room you walk into. Think, How can I improve this person’s day with my words?
Because words are powerful.
(2) Show Affection
I learned a 3-step way to appropriately show affection to the people in my life.
A look. A word. A touch.
A parent looks their child in the eye, they speak a word of encouragement, they give them a hug.
At the office, you look a coworker in the eye, notice them, you let them know how impressed you are with their work, give them a high five or a fist bump.
A look. A word. A touch.
A husband walks in the door from work. He looks at his wife, says, I can’t believe I get to come home to you each day. And he kisses her as the kids watching throw up in their mouths.
A look. A word. A touch.
Okay – those are the first two words to improve your relationships – affirmation, affection. Those are not natural – you’ll need God’s help for it to become routine – affirmation and affection.
(3) Ask, “And then what happened?”
These could possibly be the four most romantic words ever spoken.
It’s when a husband makes great eye contact with his wife, and says, No way! And then what happened?
And she’ll say, Well, after I couldn’t find a parking spot, I finally make it in to Trader Joe’s. But I couldn’t find where the almonds were.
And the husband says, You’re kidding! And then what happened?
Yes, it will take up more of your day. If you ask this question to your co-workers who want to tell you about the dream they had or your child who want to tell you about something funny at school or the friend who had an interaction with their in-laws, yes, it will take up more time.
But you’ll be known as someone who intently listens and cares about people.
When you don’t just want to know the highlights, not just the cliff notes – but you are interested in every single detail – it shows you think they are important to you.
(4) Speak the truth in love.
In each of your relationships, there comes a moment where you need to communicate what they need to hear. Each relationship is two imperfect people who at some point are going to have a rift, usually based on something someone did.
The closer you grow with someone, the more you’ll be exposed to a harmful habit or perspective someone might have.
We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
We will speak the truth in love. We will do it gently, not judgmentally, not in a holier than thou way – but because we love them and don’t want them to harm themselves.
Some people claiming to love Jesus have loved Him for a very long time, but the reason their spiritual growth has hit a ceiling is because they don’t speak the truth in love in their relationships. They don’t like conflict, they don’t want to share truth because it might offend someone.
Conversations where truth will be shared shouldn’t be done impulsively, or passive aggressively. It’s when you care about someone, they hurt you or they’re hurting themselves, and you write down clearly what you want to communicate with them in love, and then you meet with they and stay on script.
If you are close to someone, and you’re not sharing truth with them, let me ask, Do you really love them?
If we want the best for them and it’s their lust or their drinking or their greed or their gossip or their lying or they’re walking away from God – and we ask them about what’s going on, do we love them?
Truth without grace is mean.
It’s not worth being right if you’re going to be rude about it.
The flip side is the same result,
Grace without truth is meaningless.
When you love someone, you’ll have multiple opportunities where you’ll need to share truth with them, with grace. And I hope you have someone in your life who will do the same with you.
If you take the first four ways to improve your relationships, and rely on your own strength, you may make your relationships a little less complicated, but you’ll regress at some point.
We need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily to improve ourselves and as a result, our relationships. It takes prayer.
Do you pray for your spouse?
Do you pray for your parents?
Do you pray for your children?
Do you pray for your boss and their leadership?
Do you pray for your church?
Do you pray for your non-Christian loved ones?
You fight and wage war. You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. (James 4:2)
Without prayer we will fight in our relationships. With it, God will give us what the relationship desperately needs.
God needs to be involved in the relationship.
You could pray silently, sure. But when you are with a loved one, and you grab their hand or put your hand on their shoulder, and you pray out loud with them, you are signally that God is involved in this relationship.
Prayer is an intimate act. It might be awkward at first, you might be embarrassed you don’t pray out loud with the people you’re closest to currently, but it takes the relationship deeper because it gets God involved.
Even if you think you can’t pray, I’d rather you pray poorly than not pray at all. Ask the person you’re in a relationship with, a sibling, a child, a classmate, a friend, ask them what they need prayer for.
And the people you’re with this week, they’ll know you don’t just hear them, you understand them. They will know you love them enough to get God involved.
Affirmation. Affection. And then what happened? Truth in love. Prayer.
Add these into your daily life and you’ll be known as a person who effectively communicates with others, and deeper than that, someone who will love those around you in ways very few have.
Thanks for reading. You are loved.