Every Thursday I stand in front of 8 teenagers and try my best to help them learn to use their words well. Each week, I hand them a little slip of paper printed with a quote about writing. The quotes serve as inspiration, encouragement and a testimony of the power of words used well. While the main objective I hold for my class is to teach these kids the mechanics of writing a solid paragraph, a good story, and a well supported essay, ultimately I have two other objectives that carry more weight than any of these.
By the time the year ends, my hope and prayer is first, that they don’t hate writing (I can’t imagine such a thing!), and second, that they leave my class understanding the weight of their words–both written and spoken.
I was in the third grade when my spark for writing lit up like a blazing fire. Two years later my fifth grade teacher, a young bachelor from California, fanned the flames when he turned out the lights, read Edgar Allen Poe to us, and helped us make our first book, complete with cereal box covers. I don’t remember anything else I learned in 5th grade, but I remember the stories. I remember the ways Mr. Jayo loved words and wanted us to learn to love them too.
The very thing that can catapult us into living our dreams can also be the very thing that can topple us.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat it’s fruits. Proverbs 18:21
When I received the invitation to write about the power of words for the newly released, Craving Connection, I felt the swell of gratitude immediately followed by the gulping anxiety of having to tell the truth about my own struggle with learning to use my words well.
Before I could write one word for the chapter I needed to straight up confess my own sins when it comes to words:
It seems only fair that I come out right up front and tell you that I haven’t always wielded the power of my own tongue with care. Daily, I fight the temptation and trigger-impulse I have to speak before I think.
With that admission out in the open, I picked a scab and bled a bit more, not because I’m proud of the ways I’ve used words as weapons, but because I hope that my mistakes can make space for you to share your own struggles. That’s what friends do for each other. It’s only in imperfect community that we can truly connect with other imperfect people (amen.) In the admission of our struggles we find hope and encouragement to keep going, to continue the hard work of growing up.
Even as I am teaching kids to use their words well, I continue to learn the power of language, the beauty of it, and the hazard of it. With the ability to speak to large crowds of people in an instant through social media, remembering this feels more critical than ever.
Without a care, we can blast our thoughts at others, like an unwelcome gust of wind that slams a door in its wake.
I wish I didn’t know so well, the damage of words spoken in anger, in haste, without thinking. I wish my own children didn’t know the painful impact of my own lack of discretion when it comes to how I use my words. I’ve cut family and friends alike, with the lashes of my tongue and wept bitter tears of repentance more times than I care to count. I have tasted the rank bitterness of such a death.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
In my breaking moments of sorrow, I’ve been helped and healed by the words of friends. when I connect with those who love me, time and again they have spoken truth and grace over me, offering a cool drink to my burning lips. In learning the way of repentance, in learning the art of a legitimate apology, I have found restoration.
The particular reflection I share in Craving Connection ends well, in the sense that I continue to have daily opportunities to speak life and love into the hearts of my kids. But the grace of 2nd, 3rd, and 80th chances isn’t permission for me to let my guard down, and my tongue flap wild.
In our communities (both online and offline) we don’t always get another chance to say the right things. Gossip about a neighbor or acquaintance can end a relationship before it even begins. Speaking out of our ignorance or judgment can build walls between us and our neighbors of other faiths and worldviews.
The expression about sticks and stones breaking bones bones should read differently because cruel words cut like a knife, take forever to heal and often leave scars.
The words we speak in our community matter. Every day we encounter people in our communities who could use a few kind words…Wisely used words can facilitate healing and reconciliation.
A good word produces good fruit.
In celebration, a giveaway for you
Craving Connection is a word-feast created by the (in)Courage community, a community that knows the power of good words. In celebration of this wonderful book, I’m giving away a super-fun box of goodies.
ONE winner will receive:
*Two signed copies of Craving Connections (one for you, and one for a friend.)
*One double package “loved” necklace from (in)Courage (one for you, and one for a friend.)
*One Fujifilm Instax mini 8 (in butter yellow) to capture those special moments of connecting.
To Enter, leave a comment below sharing one of the ways community has helped you when you have struggled with something. For extra entries, share this post on your favorite social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and leave a comment for each share.
*Giveaway open to U.S. Residents only, winner will have 24-hours to claim prize before another will be selected.