[blockquote source=”Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)“]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.[/blockquote]

Earlier this year (2013), as I was going through a rough patch, one of the things that I caught myself doing more of was to criticise and complain.  Sometimes it was over feeling lost about my purpose in life, other times it was over something as trivial as the lift would not stop on my floor.

And this complaining and criticising were just the surface of it.  Deeper inside, the emotions of anger, hatred, envy, and anxiety were lurking around waiting for just the right moment to show its fangs and eat into my soul.  What’s worse, all these emotions are a result of a greater sense of fear – fear of losing out, fear of the unknown, fear of the known, fear of the future, and fear of the present.

And when fear rules your world, it becomes dark, cold, and lonely.  It is the devil’s scheme, as when fear rules, faith is lost.  And when faith is lost, we become distant from God.

To paraphrase a famous quote from Lao Tzu, “Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

To live out my goal to be a role model for my children, one of my daily tasks is to speak words of encouragement.  I firmly believe that people, especially children, will live up to the expectations that you hold them to be.  As a result, I say things that will encourage them to either demonstrate more of the desired behaviours or correct the undesirable ones.

For example, when Moses (my son) is being helpful, I would say, “Thank you for helping me with cleaning up”.  Or when I see him showing affection towards his sister, I would say, “You are so sweet to show your love towards your sister”.

Of course children sometimes misbehave and by saying, “I am very disappointed with your bad behaviour”, does not help because we are not offering to the child what is the type of behaviour that is acceptable.  And without a clear sense of “what can I do instead”, the child will have little clue in correcting his behaviour.

Instead, we can say “You need to be more respectful by waiting for your turn to play” or perhaps even ask the child “How can you behave in a more respectful manner?”

Hence, here are the elements of speaking words of encouragement either to your children or even your spouse, friends, co-workers, direct reports, or even bosses! (hat-tip to the Virtues Project):

  • (a) an opening phrase, (b) virtue, and (c) how the virtue is being demonstrated
  • e.g. (a) Thank you for (b) helping (c) me with cleaning up
  • (a) an opening phrase, (b) virtue, and (c) how the virtue ought to be demonstrated
  • e.g. (a) You need to be more (b) respectful (c) by waiting for your turn to play
  • (a) an open-ended question, (b) virtue
  • e.g. (a) How can you behave in a more (b) respectful manner?

With these guides in mind, we are now better equipped to speak words of encouragement to give hope and to lift up the spirits of others.  Who likes to be around others who complain and whine about everything and anything?  Finally, as is recorded in the Book of Proverbs, “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” Proverbs (16:24)

Father we thank You for Your Word today, which speak of encouragement in how we should live.  Father, I pray that You will help us do the same by speaking words of encouragement that will give hope as well as lift up the spirits of those we meet today. In Jesus name, Amen.

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