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Words are Sticky

by Lindsey Fontneau

Never underestimate the power of your words. They have the ability to heal, mend, encourage, uplift, and inspire. They can create change, humble hearts, restore relationships, express emotion. Words live, did you know that? They can even transcend time – thoughts can’t do that. Think about how differently our country would look without the Declaration of Independence, or what if Martin Luther King had a dream but kept it to himself? What about faith? What if we didn’t have the Scriptures? God’s living Word, every letter, every punctuation point, every space between every word, dripping with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Imagine trying to navigate through difficult times without that Book. I can’t, and I don’t want to.Words don’t just live, but they’re also sticky. There’s often an adhesive quality to them, whether we realize it or not. I bet you can tell me your baby’s first word, and maybe even their first complete sentence. I’m assuming you could tell me where the quote “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” came from. And I’m quite certain you can acknowledge the power and significance of two little words spoken at every wedding ceremony, “I do.” And if you’re anything like me, without missing a beat, I’m sure you could tell me the single most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to you. Honestly, if I think about it too long, I can still get myself to shed a tear as if it happened earlier this morning. Words live, even the ones I wish would die.I can’t help but wonder, what unthinkably cruel words have I spoken to another person? Perhaps it’s my unkind words that swirl around in someone’s mind the second they begin to question their worth. Do I actually have the power to mess with someone’s psyche like that? Unfortunately I know what I’m capable of, because I know my own wretchedness better than anyone. And the answer is yes, I do have that power, and so do you.In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Am I taking this verse out of its context? Yes, absolutely. But hang with me.) As someone who claims to be a Christ-follower, I don’t get to speak negativity over people. Why? Because as a living, breathing human being, I have two main jobs on this planet. One is to worship God, and the second is to put Him on display well. If I truly believe that God is my Father and I’m his chosen child, then I am not my own. I represent Him. Period.Jewish tradition also believes that words are living. Not only that, they believe that speaking blessings over someone else actually obligates God to move in their favor. They also believe the same thing about curses. These words of blessings and curses are active agents, and here’s the other thing: you can’t take them back. You get one shot at speaking a blessing, so don’t mess it up.As believers, we should be leaving a wake of God’s blessing behind us everywhere we go. Speak blessings over the grocery clerk, the Starbucks barista, the custodian at your office building, the same homeless man you pass by every day on your morning commute, your coworkers, your parents, your spouse, your kids, your kids’ kids, EVERYONE. No one should be exempt from experiencing God’s favor. Just a reminder, Jesus didn’t just sacrifice himself for the people who would one day know him. He gave his life for the ones who would never know him too. (I know, ouch.)Listen, I’m not saying you should say, “May the Lord bless you and keep you” every time you encounter a stranger. I mean, if that’s your thing, go for it. But I’m not so bold. However, encouragement is powerful. I think we can all agree on that. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve had a pleasant thought about someone and just decided to keep my mouth shut. I grieve how often I’ve chosen not to engage with someone because of the potential for an awkward encounter. What if your words are the only positive thing they hear all day? What if complimenting someone’s kindness, smile, or eyeshadow gives them the confidence they need to apply for that job, finish school, or try to save their marriage? Sure, maybe it won’t have a ripple that large. But what if it does?Speak words of life over everyone, even the difficult ones. Don’t be the voice of negativity they hear in their head years later. There is no better place to be than smack dab in the middle of God’s blessing and favor, and we should want that for others too, not just for ourselves. If words are sticky, make yours taste like honey.—-“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.” – Rachel Wolchin