Ever talk to someone who is careless with their words? It might be swearing, lying, hurtful jokes, sarcasm, insults, or something else – words can hurt. I have often found that when people who are careless with their words are confronted, they are very defensive: “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone; people just need to get thicker skin.” Indeed.
One of my all time favorite verses is Ephesians 4:29. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building others up, according to their needs.” (NIV) Our words can build others up, or tear them down. Our words are like bricks – we will either build into others’ lives, or throw them at others to tear them down. There are very few neutral words (which is why it is usually wise to just be silent). How can we use our words to build others up? How can we build the lives of others with our words?
I have been taking a leadership class for my Doctor of Ministry program. A great deal of the reading I have doing has been about words – how to build up the lives and leadership of others. Leadership in this case is not getting others to follow you (using encouragement for your own goals), but helping others to see the dreams and calling that God has given them (using encouragement to help people see God’s work in themselves). This is about helping people to believe in God’s power in them, and seeing how you can work together for God’s Kingdom. This is the encouragement that many have given me in my life – they have believed in me, challenged me, and seen gifts in me before I could see them myself.
I wonder why we don’t see more encouragement like this? This type of building up is not about flattery or a cheering section – that is like throwing confetti when what you need is bricks and mortar. (Life is going to bring us storms and challenges – confetti is just not enough.) I wonder if we don’t see more of this building because people are not quite built up themselves. Can I give bricks to others when I don’t have enough bricks in my own life? It is hard to encourage others when you feel empty, stressed, anxious, tired. There is no simple answer to these struggles – but to run to the Lord and feel His building words. We may need to cut back so we can be built up. It is ok to ask for encouragement and be surrounded by those who will challenge, encourage, and build us up. And then we need to build others up with every single word – kids, friends, spouse, co-workers, boss, receptionist, clerk – everyone.
You got bricks coming out of your mouth! How will you use those bricks? Allow people into your life to build you up. Build others up with your words according to their needs. See deep into people’s hearts, and give them the bricks of encouragement they need. We can change our world, brick by brick.