Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it. "
One of the reasons I enjoy getting away from home with my family is that we have so much time together to talk and discuss life and to continue deepening the friendships we already share. One evening last week, as we laid on beds in our hotel room, Joel read an article to us about the regrets that people who are dying have voiced. One that particularly has remained on my heart is, "There are so many things I wish I had said to people that I just never communicated."
Living in an isolationist and impersonal society has taken its toll on our lives. All of us long to know we are not alone, or that our mistakes have not made others disappointed in us, or that our lives matter at all. We need to know that our being faithful matters. We long to know that our labor is not in vain. We are hungry for friendship and words of love.
Yet we live in a society that lives in a an isolated bubble. Suicide rates are growing rapidly, depression medicine is at the pinnacle of business, and loneliness is epidemic.
People in the crowds of city life are often zipped up, impatient, impersonal.
Part of it is a reflection of dried up souls. Another part is simply neglect. When Jesus healed 10 blind men, only one returned to say "thank you."
Then there is insecurity. Often, people are afraid they might communicate the wrong thing to others, so they just don't say anything. Young men are afraid to be kind to young women because it may be taken the wrong way. Young girls are afraid to be friendly to young men because it may be taken as an advance. People are "too shy" to speak to someone because they might be rejected.
Yet, when daily there is constant challenge to ideals, Biblical values, and we all live inconsistently within the confines of our selfish hearts, we long to hear words of affirmation.
"Words of life" I call it. Generous words that water the soul, that give hope to the weary, that speak love to a dry heart. Words have power to influence, and to change. They keep a teen faithful during temptation because they call him back to his value. They keep a marriage going because it is water to weary souls. It gives hope to those in the trenches of life.
Planting words of life into the treasure chest of those we love must be a habit, intentional, focussed. A person whose heart is filled with messages of love, hope, confidence, faith in themselves, will have voices of those words when they are away from home, being tempted, living amongst other unwise people. Our messages are seeds that are planted that bear long-term fruit.
"I am so grateful for the gift of you in my life."
"Nothing you will ever do will separate you from my love."
"I am so blessed to be your friend."
"I believe in you and in your dreams."
"Your mistakes do not define you--they are just training grounds for you to grow stronger. I see your heart and love who you are in spite of your mistakes."
"You mean so much to me."
"Your faithfulness has changed my life."
"Thank you for showing me such consideration and kindness--I needed to know someone loved me today."
"You matter to me."
"I love your personality!"
"Thank you for the article you wrote/conference you held/lesson you taught/song you sang--I really appreciate the work and time you have taken to bless so many."
"I love you."
"I forgive you."
If all of us took the time to say kind words, to give encouragement and hope, to take initiative to be bold and generous with our encouragement, regardless of what someone might think or how they will respond, we shall leave a trail of the light of life-giving words that may just shape and change the way people behave, and the faith that they hold on to.
To withhold the good when it is in our capacity to give it is unwise, neglectful and unfaithful. If we live by the fear of what others may think, we are practicing being self-centered and small. If we focus our powerful words of love on others, regardless of their response, we are practicing being Christ to those who need hope and help.
I have never, ever been encouraged too much in my life because it is being drained on a constant rate.
Today, now, write down at least three people you know who may need your encouragement. Today, give words of life and water your relationships with the intention of the gift of words that bring hope, affirmation and courage.