How will your words affect others?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Have you ever thought of how a simple comment can impact your life or the lives of others?

That thought skittered across my mind just yesterday as I was talking with Joe Wingard, who told me he always wanted to write for a newspaper. He said while in college, a friend told him he should pursue a degree in English, which is where he discovered his path would take him not to the newsroom, but instead into the classroom. He said a simple comment heard inside one of his classes impacted him enough to change his course.

In turn, I shared my story, which was the linear opposite of his. I told him my first thought after high school was to get my teaching degree, but a required visit as a student observer convinced me God did not want me to be in charge of children all day long. So, at the age of 20, there I was, asking myself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

I told him it was then I remembered the comments of two separate teachers who told me I should write for a living – never knowing that something two people said to me when I was in the 10th grade would shape the rest of my life.

Our words have power – the two short instances chronicled above prove that.

On the flip side, words have the ability to hurt, to make you self-conscious and the like.

Here’s a for instance. I’ve always loved music, especially to sing. Granted I’m not very good at it, but I’m way better than some of those folks I see on television giving it a go. In high school, an off-handed comment about me singing too loud in a group sing-a-long shattered my confidence. It was years before I gained enough courage to get back on a stage. Granted, it was also the need for someone to pay for my books in college that made me try out for the collegiate singers, but you get what I’m trying to say, I hope.

I’m generally not one for quoting scripture, but here it is in black and white – Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Also remember that the right words at the wrong time can be just as damaging as the wrong words. Words left unsaid can also be hurtful. The right word spoken at the right time can make all the difference for someone.

And along the same line of thought, I urge you to remember that each of us has the opportunity to affect others in a profound way – be it through a word or an action.

Most people rarely give thought to the effect they have had or will have on others.

I challenge you to do otherwise.