9/26/07

Carefully-Chosen Words

Some of the funniest signs I’ve seen deal with communication. A favorite, on a poster at Fight Illiteracy, said, “Are you an adult that cannot read? If so, we can help!”

The words we speak will impact how we feel, how we are perceived, and how we affect others, so we must learn to choose our words wisely. Certainly, developing a wider vocabulary is important, but we can all make better choices with the vocabulary we already have. Carefully-chosen words help us describe our emotions, experiences, desires, goals, dreams, and most cherished beliefs.

One simple word choice can change how we view our entire day, or how others respond to us. When I stopped using the word “overwhelmed”—as in “I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. I’m so overwhelmed”—and instead substituted the phrase “time challenged,” my blood pressure went down and my thoughts cleared. I can deal with a time challenge, but how can I deal with “overwhelmed”? I made another choice to answer the question, “How are you?” with “Great!” instead of “Fine.” It really colored my day! A friend in a church I attended as a newlywed used to answer that question with, “Excellent!” Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Public speakers, pastors, lawyers, and other professionals cultivate a colorful, persuasive vocabulary, but good word choices are a skill everyone should develop. The scriptures are full of references to the tongue that give insight into word choices. We grieve the Spirit of God when our words do not edify (Ephesians 4:29-30). We don’t want our words to destroy people, cutting them like a sharp razor (Psalm 52:2).We need to guard against bitter words (James 3:10-12). We want our words to minister life (Proverbs 10:11a) and grace (Ephesians 4:29), to heal (Proverbs 12:18b), and to encourage others with joy and gladness (Proverbs 12:25).

Listen to your words today. What are you saying to others? What are you saying to yourself? Choose words that build, encourage, challenge, and motivate.

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