Many of us can identify defining moments in our lives, that may be seemingly insignificant to others, but mean a lot to us. I was a senior in high school when my choir teacher had each of us stand and sing a verse–solo. I sat listening as each class member sang, dreadfully anticipating my turn. Finally, the teacher nodded toward me and I slowly stood and straightened my shoulders. My clenched palms were sweaty and my heart was beating rapidly. My stomach was churning as I opened my mouth and let the first notes roll forth. My nervousness was reflected in my breathy, quavering voice.
As I was singing, I heard it. Giggling. Coming from the second row. From the group of girls who could REALLY sing (one of them was Miss Teen USA and her talent was singing). My face flaming red, I finished my verse and then quickly sat down, mortified and embarrassed. I knew I would never sing in public again.
I wished the ground would open and swallow me as my teacher, Mrs. Gates, stood. I was ready to be told that I didn’t quite have what it took to sing, but instead she addressed the class and related a story about a former pupil of hers who sounded breathy and weak just as I did. She shared how the student went on to become a music teacher and even sang in some musical theater. With just a few kind words she lessened the humiliation I felt and gave me hope. She changed the way I saw myself and my abilities (or lack thereof). While I never became a great singer or music teacher, I did participate in choir all the way through college. I even sang solos for several weddings and church programs. But without her kind words I am sure I would never have attempted to sing again.
Our words can have a profound effect, good or bad, on the individuals around us. Scripture tells us, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11).
When my youngest son was little, I was preparing to do a workshop entitled, “Apples of Gold,” that focused on what the Bible has to say about what we have to say. I made posters with scriptures on them and was putting them on the walls. As I would put up a poster, I would read it to my son. I read Proverbs 10:19 to him and moved on. As I continued around the room, I heard some mumbling behind me and turned to see my son holding his tongue and trying to talk. The verse I had read was, “When words are many, sin is not absent but he who holds his tongue is wise!” While Bradley holding his tongue was a literal interpretation, I couldn’t help but wonder if we would be better off holding our tongues on occasion.
Matthew 12:34b-36 say, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.”
Can you imagine what our churches and families would be like if our words were encouraging and building one one another up? Imagine a church where gossip is not repeated and members have learned to weigh their words carefully. Imagine a church where Christians really believe they will be acquitted or condemned by their words.
I wish I could say all of my speech is encouraging and uplifting, but I confess I struggle mightily with my words. Sometimes I just blurt out whatever I am thinking without thinking. And there have been many occasions through the years when I have hurt someone’s feelings by thoughtlessly spoken words. I’m sure many of you struggle with the same things.
You just never know when your words can impact someone for the good. I’m sure Mrs. Gates had no idea of the difference her kind words made for me. Take the opportunity today to make a difference.