Donna Thomas is a member here at Park Street Brethren Church and lay leader for Parish ministries. Check out more of Donna's writing on her blog: seasonsixty.wordpress.com. Thanks Donna for sharing about how God has been speaking to you!
“Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Plato
If you’ve had experience with creating documents on the computer, you know that at the bottom of the page is the two word phrase, word count. It’s simply a running total of the amount of words you have written. For some that’s an important number; especially for students who need a quota for an assignment, or an author submitting a piece for publication.
While word count may be needed at times, wouldn’t it be interesting if we had an additional feature called word quality?
I’m not alluding to the need for a thesaurus and an expansion of vocabulary. Nor am I thinking about the development of one’s writing style. What I’m wondering is what it would be like if the computer could intuitively evaluate the quality or encouragement factor of our words. (Hmmm . . . maybe word quality should be a Facebook option.)
What would our interchanges be like if we all were given a word quality feature? I imagine it to be a little box I clip onto my waistband, emitting a buzzing sound when I’m too blunt, unnecessarily critical, or totally unaware of how I am coming across to another person (which happens more than I care to admit at the mature age of 60!).
On the other hand, this small attachment could play a pretty melody when my words are for the sake of helping others see the best in themselves, letting them know how much I value them, or responding in ways that show them I hear their feelings.
Thank God, I can point to conversations in which I’ve done pretty well with my word quality. I do think it will always be a work in progress. Below are three areas I am working on to help me communicate with encouragement. Perhaps one of these areas that speak to your own quality of words will resonate with you.
1. Self-awareness. You probably wonder what that has to do with encouragement. Well, when I am not in tune with my internal state of emotions, I have a tendency to respond unkindly. This can be discouraging to the person on the receiving end. A recent conversation with my spouse is a good example. Last Sunday I was exhausted and a little overwhelmed by life. In the midst of this emotional upheaval, my husband asked about having a weekend houseguest the following weekend. My first impulse was to show anger and scream “are you kidding me?” After a few moments, I was able to identify and share where I was emotionally. A fruitful conversation followed.
Relationships can get a bit dicey when we have to guess what’s going on inside the other person. Recognizing your feelings and expressing them with others is perhaps one of the greatest connecting points between humans. Having good self-awareness of your emotions will impact how you respond to people and how they respond to you as well!
2. Discounting. A good definition of this word is: to think of something as having little importance or value. This is an important concept that doesn’t get talked about a lot. I got to see this in full force several years ago when I was co-leading a group for emotional and spiritual healing. A young woman was describing a picture she drew of a very dark time in her childhood. The image, quite frankly, was startling and not at all pleasant. An older woman in the group chimed in that she saw hope because of the color yellow in the picture. Well, the younger woman immediately shut-down. Her feelings were discounted. Now the older woman meant well. She’s an absolutely lovely person. I’m sure she discounted the younger woman’s feelings without realizing it. This interaction brought discounting onto my radar screen and I’ve been working on that area ever since.
3. Blessing. Look for opportunities to bless one another with your words. Recently my daughter drove three hours with her four children to our home in order to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday. Before she made the long trek back, I blessed her with words of gratefulness and acknowledgement for her sacrifice.
I also had the opportunity last week to bless my new daughter-in-law. She has hurdled major life obstacles and continues to persevere in challenging circumstances. I intentionally include blessings of encouragement when we Skype and let her know how proud I am of her.
Before our grandsons lay their heads on their pillows to sleep at night, our son-in-law blesses them with a scriptural passage of blessing from the Old Testament. Isn’t that a beautiful way to end the day and get ready for a night’s rest?
Offering a word of blessing is one of the most encouraging acts you can do for someone.
One of my favorite little stories in biblical times is about a Jesus follower that was known for the quality of his words. A certain man in the newly formed Christian church named Joseph was a key leader, preacher, teacher, and missionary. The book of Acts even calls him an apostle alongside of Paul (Acts 14:14), though he was not one of the twelve apostles. But the quality for which Joseph will probably be remembered more than any others was his willingness to express encouragement to others. In fact, that was such a strong virtue in Joseph’s life that the early church gave him a new name, Barnabas, which means son of encouragement.
Perhaps we should dare to clip on the Word Quality Box and become sons and daughters of encouragement!
If you need a little more encouragement on the topic of encouragement, check out Shauna Niequist’s post at www.shaunaniequist.com/use-words. She’s one of my favorite authors and has a “good word” to say on the subject!