Words matter to me. I am constantly trying to figure out how to say things better, clearer, and more persuasively. In my role as a husband and father, I have also learned how words can make a big difference.
Our words can heal or damage, build up or tear down, strengthen or discourage, produce confidence or elicit fear, and result in closeness or alienation. Therefore, we must learn to choose our words wisely. But this challenge is easier said than done. If you’re anything like me, so often by the time I realize what I’ve said—and the tone with which I’ve said it—it’s already too late.
In Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV), Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Yes, our choice of words is serious business!
There are a few phrases that can wield a huge impact upon our relationships. These words constitute some powerful, yet brief statements or affirmations. Whether we’re describing interactions in our families between spouses or parents and children, at work between fellow workers, church, school, among boyfriends or girlfriends, or just friends in general, the words I’m about to share are very important.
“I understand you.”
People need to feel understood. It hurts to feel misjudged and misunderstood. So many unnecessary problems could be avoided if people would take the time to get to know each other and seek mutual understanding. Sometimes we jump to conclusions and make faulty assumptions about others.
James makes this statement: “Know this, my beloved brothers: Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” (James 1:19-20, ESV). We will only be able to understand people when we carefully listen to them.
“I respect you.”
When we feel respected, we feel better not only about ourselves but also about the other person. This sense of personal validation motivates us to want to “up our game” and become better people.
Peter says, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:15-16, ESV).
“I forgive you.”
At some point in our lives, we find our selves in dire need of forgiveness. We hurt each other, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally. We do and say things that damage our relationships.
Jesus says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, ESV). Paul writes, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32, ESV). When someone recognizes and acknowledges their mistake or sin, it is our Christian duty to forgive them and put the trespass behind us.
“I need you.”
Deep down, we all want to feel needed. It builds up our self-esteem and self-confidence. After the apostle Paul rebuffed the young John Mark for deserting him and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, Mark must have felt pretty low (see Acts 15:37-41). Therefore, I can’t imagine what it must have meant to Mark when, a few years later, Paul penned the following words: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11, ESV). Mark surely felt validated and redeemed.
“I appreciate you.”
A little appreciation goes a long way. When persons feel appreciated, their confidence is bolstered. They feel like they have made a positive difference and therefore have purpose. In Ephesians 1:16 (ESV), Paul writes, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” We need to remember to tell people and tell God, “Thank you!” It’s important.
“I love you.”
Many children and adults in this world seldom, if ever, hear that they are loved. To feel loved is to feel full inside, joyful, and hopeful. Col. 3:14 (ESV) says, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” John instructs, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7, ESV).
I understand you. I respect you. I forgive you. I need you. I appreciate you. I love you. These are powerful words that make a big difference!
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