Recently, while celebrating our daughter's birthday, I invited our guests into conversation surrounding her. I said, "Because I love words, I would like each of us to think of a quality we see in Hannah, that we also find in ourselves." Our guests smiled, a little hesitant at first, but soon found a host of common characteristics. This led to a lovely meaningful exchange of thoughts, encouragements and connections to, with and about our birthday girl. Words have a way of connecting us.
During a class at House of Hope, one of the participants happened to have her birthday on class day.
After gifts of brightly decorated cupcakes and juicy red strawberries, I explained, “For birthdays, I give words,” and stood to drop a piece of wood into her hand.
She received the disc eagerly and gently rotated it to view the word written there.
The word BRAVE glowed from the piece.
As her other hand came up to her chest, she took a minute to respond. With wonder and recognition in her voice she spoke it out,
"Thank you. Thank you. Yes. I am brave."
Words can quickly launch a standard and set an expectation.
Several years ago, after hearing me repeatedly say, "I am not very athletic," my daughter gently cited that this was very untrue and not at all empowering. She suggested that perhaps it would be better if I kept in my mind an alternative, "I am a strong and active woman." This statement was much truer and produced a picture in my mind that helped me feel more positive about myself. I have recently begun to work with a personal trainer. When she observed, during our first work out, that I have great body awareness, I felt encouraged and remembered my personal statement with a smile.
Words can cement feelings. We must pick them carefully.
We also know people who use words in unkind ways. Because of the power of those words they tear down and discourage and sometimes even ruin people's lives, careers or marriages. One well placed word, aimed and spoken, can set someone on a trajectory of a life of pain, confusion and sadness. Sometimes, said in anger, words can sting, slash and burn.
I was called a sweat hog one time when I was in college! Believe me when I say that word has not left me. It was untrue, spoken by someone who I didn't know but it fed the deep insecurity I felt about my physical appearance for years to come. In contrast to that awful word, one time my brother told me that my writing is a part of my "beauty." How I love to rehearse THAT word as I sit at my computer.
God uses words to communicate with us.
In John 1:14, we are taught: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God loves words too and He knows the power of them, especially the One Word He sent to live with us. He knew this one Word would make God, Himself, known to the world.
This great Word (Jesus) is filled to overflowing with words like grace, peace, do not fear, love, my Father, blessed, light, do not judge, trust, pray, ask, seek, knock, enter, come to me, be healed, follow me... Which are words that inform, bless and identify, connect, set a standard and cement feelings.
What about you? Do you have a word that dwells inside your head? Did anyone speak words that have helped you define yourself? Do you have words like beautiful, strong, capable, kind, intelligent as part of the definition of you? I encourage you to examine your thoughts. Find the words that come to mind as you go through your day. Then determine if those words are empowering or stripping you of your dignity.
Just as "I am a strong and active woman" has led me to feel more positive about my physical abilities, so an empowering truthful phrase or word could turn your thinking toward the way God truly sees you and could open you to agree with Him in powerful ways.