The old phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is one of the biggest lies to ever penetrate our society. The wounds from the words of others have left a far more lasting impression upon my heart than the physical wounds I have received.
In the same way negative words have wiped me of so much of my identity and sense of self-worth, I’ve found that genuine, positive words have had the opposite effect. Words of genuine encouragement can bring life to places where we only feel death, or to put it slightly less dramatically, where we feel numb.
Pleasant words bring health, they bring life, and they bring hope.
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).”
Now, the tricky part for most of us is that we understand the truth of the bad things about us. If you asked the average person what their issues are, they could likely launch into a ten-minute response about all the ways they have messed up…in the last week alone. Asking someone to list the positives is most likely to be met with either an evasive answer totally off topic (my personal strategy is to use humor) or a few quick cliché Christianese words. I know this to be true because I have actually asked this question to many individuals over the years, and it’s almost always a very short conversation.
The junk about us is right there on the surface, covering most of who we believe we are; the part we believe everyone else sees. The beautiful things about most of us are tragically hidden beneath layers of insults, abuse, and failures.
As lovers of Jesus, one of the best ways we can represent His heart is to speak life to those around us. Sure, someone’s flaws may be the easiest thing to pick up on since they often are right on the surface; and honestly, in most social circles, you will get much more attention if you’re quick to talk about someone’s issues. However, when you do that, is that pulling the beautiful things about you to the surface, or is it allowing the junk in your heart to simply remain, to be seen by all?
We are made in His Image.
One of my favorite hobbies in life is “digging for the gold in others.” I love a good challenge, and the idea that most people have great value hidden underneath their layers of struggle, creates a strong desire within me to want to draw it out. After all, if every single person is made in the image of God, finding the good in others is always possible, even if they refuse to believe it.
I honestly learned to do this as a survival method for myself in high school. You see, I was headed straight for depression. I was filled with self-loathing, and I knew that if I did not find some way to find worth in myself, I was on a very dangerous path. I had never felt more alone or worthless, but I took God at His word that he had placed His worth within me. So I went looking for what gold God had placed in me, which had simply gotten buried over the years due to the sin and struggle I was refusing to let grace heal.
Now, years later, I love to look for that gold in others and to call it out in them. Not just once, but until they actually start to believe it for themselves. Each time I do, I pray the gold will rise closer to the surface and they’ll find more freedom, and become more aware of who they truly are…the person God created them to be. Because let’s be honest; it’s far easier to believe the negative words of others than the encouraging ones.
Anyone can find the negatives in someone else. Gossip? That’s so easy!
Looking for gold in others can certainly be much harder. But as you do it, you’ll find your gold being pulled to the surface, and at the same time, you’ll find improved relationships, and you’ll find yourself smiling a whole lot more. After all, when we partner with God, it always leads to more joy and more hope. Couldn’t we all use a whole lot more of both of those?
So I encourage you, take some time today to look for the value in those around you, to ask God how He sees them, and then to tell them what He shows you about who they are.
“Do to others, as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).”