Growing up in Minneapolis, I learned a thing or two about snow. Whether sledding, shoveling, snowball making or snow fort building, I am somewhat of an expert. Some people love snow, as I do, while others cannot stand the thought of it.
After I graduated from High School, I spent that summer on a mission trip in Central Florida, playing drums in a band that performed Gospel music poolside at many of the resorts in the area. During that summer, I met a number of adults, one as old as seventy-two, who had never seen snow. Coming from the Midwest, that seemed incredible to me, because snow created some of my best memories as a child.
For example, when the first snow of the season started gently falling from the sky, I would grab my coat, go out to an open area, close my eyes and look up toward the sky. The snowflakes landed so gently on my face that it would tickle. Then, as the warmth of my face melted the flakes, they would slowly evaporate, as they slid down my cheeks. It was exhilarating!
When I became an adult, I still loved snow. Everything was so clean and white after a fresh snowfall. Even today, after almost two decades of living in the South, though I no longer like the cold, I still love snow. Too bad you cannot have one without the other. It would be great if it could snow in my backyard in Texas when it was 100 degrees in the shade.
There was one thing about snow I did not like – snowballs. While one snowflake on my face was exhilarating, if someone reached down and grabbed a bunch of snowflakes, compressed them into a ball and threw it at me, that same snow that only moments before was so uplifting, was now a dangerous weapon. Have you ever been hit in the face with a snowball? Few things hurt more.
USE YOUR WORDS TO HEAL
Words are a lot like snowflakes. If they land softly, they lift your spirit and heal your soul. However, if someone grabs a bunch of words, compresses them into a few tightly focused sentences and throws them at you, it is like being hit in the face with a snowball. It hurts. That is why Proverbs 12:18 tells us that, “Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.”
It amazes me that the same substance that heals and encourages can also cut deeply into the soul. What makes the difference? Like snowflakes, I think your delivery has a lot to do with your results. Your words and motives may be correct, even Biblical, but if your delivery is wrong, then your whole message will be wrong as well. You will hurt people. That is why the Apostle Paul instructed us in Ephesians 4:15 to “Speak the truth in love.”
Speaking the truth in love does not mean saying whatever you wish, simply because it is factual. It means you first check your motives; then choose words that draw others toward the truth of God’s Word; and finally, deliver those words in a caring, loving manner.
Some people think they are good communicators because they talk a lot. The Bible reveals a very different truth. According to God, the type of words used and the way you deliver them, determines the quality of your communication. Do your words heal? Or, like so many people today, do your words cut deeply into the hearts of others? If you answer truthfully with a “Yes” to the second question, regardless of your motives, you are not pleasing God. God wants you to bless others, not curse them.
A good test of your communication effectiveness is to take note of the body language of people when you talk with them. Do you see them leaning in, drawing closer and closer as you speak, or do they seem to pull back, leaning on their heels instead? If people are pulling back from you as you speak, then you are not drawing them toward the truth – even if you are speaking the truth. If they pull back, you are likely throwing snowballs in their faces.
If you find that you often hurt others with your words, take comfort in the truth that you possess a God-given ability to bless others with your words. You simply need to change your delivery. Rather than throwing your words at others like snowballs to their faces, try speaking softly instead.
“A gentle answer quiets anger, but a harsh one stirs it up. When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive, but stupid people spout nonsense. The LORD sees what happens everywhere; he is watching us, whether we do good or evil. Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush your spirit”. Proverbs 15:1-4 TEV
Speaking softly attracts attention. It is even more attractive when you speak words that lead others toward truth. Rather than trying to make a point with your words, try leading others toward truth. Instead of trying to prove to others how much you know, seek to demonstrate how much God loves them. Use your words to heal and lift the souls of others. Treat others as God says they can be, and they will live up to that standard. God will bless you for it.
USE YOUR WORDS TO BUILD AND PROTECT
Another winter childhood memory is building snow forts. After a large snowstorm, the city plows would come through our streets, pushing huge banks of snow to the curbs. Some of those snow banks would reach over eight feet tall. As soon as the plows passed by, my friends and I would begin digging tunnels from the house side of that snow bank, creating passageways to larger rooms capable of holding up to ten of us at one time. At the same time, the kids across the street were busy building their own snow fort. In short order, we had two opposing fortresses, capable of protecting each team from the volley of snowballs we would throw at each other over the snow-covered street.
Our fortress walls served two purposes. First, the walls kept the other team out. Second, the walls kept us safe inside. Once behind our walls, it was difficult for the other team to reach us, so we were free to relax and be at peace, as long as we stayed inside our walls. If we ventured out of the fortress, the result was quite different since we immediately came under fire from snowballs launched from the other side of the street. As I reflect back on those great memories, an amazing revelation is that those mighty walls were formed by the same tiny snowflakes.
Through our words, we all have constructed walls that establish boundaries in our lives. Some of our words have built walls that keep people out. Some of our words have built walls that keep people safe within our world. What type of walls have you built? If you use your words to protect others, you will find them seeking shelter within the safety of your relationship. However, if you use your words to separate, you will find others seeking protection from you.
Consider the instruction of the Apostle Paul, when he said, “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” Ephesians 4:29-32 TEV
Remember as a faith leader every word you speak has the ability to heal, or to destroy. Every word you speak can build walls of protection or walls that separate you from the people God wants you to connect with on a daily basis. God is a relationship God. He wants you to make the most of every relationship He sends your way. Determine to use your words to heal and protect. As you do, you will create positive experiences and memories in the lives of others.