We’ve all heard the phrase “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”. However, that statement is far from the truth. We’ve all felt the sting from hurtful words or felt the freeing confidence brought by encouraging words. It’s true that words can build up or tear down. In fact, Proverbs 18:21 says, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” Our tongue can literally function as a weapon. Words have a huge influence.
Our words have a huge impact on those around us. They can build up someone’s confidence or shred someone to tears. Hatred, encouragement, love, rebuke, gossip, compassion, faith, doubt, belief, unbelief, concern, and more all come from our heart and out through our mouth.
So, how are we influencing others with our words? Consider these steps for greater influence.
Find Your Identity in Christ
If identity is in self, rather than blessing others, you will eventually wound others with your words. Our sin has polluted our speech, but thankful we can be new creations in Christ. Once we find our identity in Christ, our identity should drive our heart and our heart should then drive what comes out of our mouths. We must make it a priority to guide and influence others toward holiness. Fully submit to God to allow for your heart to change so that your tongue can change.
Avoid Gossip and Slander
Slander means damaging one’s reputation. In James 4:11, the word that James uses for slander has a broader meaning that includes any form of criticism or putting someone down for selfish motives. Even if what you are saying may be true, we must not misalign our words to make ourselves look good while putting others in a bad light.
We are to build others up in Christ, rather than criticize out of jealousy or selfish ambition. Words inform our heart. Be careful how much you speak of something negative, as it too will shape your heart.
Actively Love Others with Words
Love does not tear down others; it builds them in Christ. Starting a statement with, “Can you believe (he or she),” is rarely good. We must be looking for ways to encourage and set aside excuses for why we can’t. Focus on the positives; speak words of forgiveness and love.
Invest in People
To invest in people means we actively care and get to know them rather than just talking about them. Investing means listening. Learn what’s really going on in someone’s life, encourage, and help hold him or her to a biblical standard.
Part of investing in others means also holding them accountable. But, what’s the difference in judging and holding accountable? James 4:12 ends with a pointed question: “But who are you to judge your neighbor?” Clearly, judging others stems from incredible arrogance.
People judge others based on their own fears and even insecurities. This is what leads to the idea of judging others by their actions and judging ourselves by intentions. Wayne Dyer says, “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”
For the person who has surrendered to Jesus, we recognize we are to hold others accountable by Godly standards. I’ve heard people say, “I could never confront anyone about their sin because we’re not supposed to judge others”. This ignores our biblical responsibility.
Biblical accountability is a biblical responsibility.
It’s easy to avoid this uncomfortable spot. But, love motivates us to care enough to help. We hold people accountable with the goal of restoration. Galatians 6:1 says we are to restore fellow Christians who fall into sin.
Influence Starts with words
Having a greater influence in our work, at home, and with friends starts with our words. Build others up, stop gossiping, and hold others accountable to Godly standards. Be fully submitted to God and actively love others with our words. View people as your greatest investment and handle that investment with love and truth.