Last week, I apparently got into some poison ivy somewhere. Me. The guy who rarely if ever goes outside for longer than it takes to walk from the car to the door or back. I’ve never had poison ivy in my life, and let me tell you – it’s no fun. I’ve been taking a steroid prescription (first time for that too), and it’s really messed up my sleep cycle, so Charlotte and the girls have been extra great to me this week as I’ve alternated between being really tired and wired for sound.
This morning before I left the house, Charlotte was telling me about something my youngest daughter Allison said to her yesterday while I was at work. Allison’s been in question mode lately, asking questions about everything; I love the inquisitive mind of a child! Yesterday, she looked at Charlotte and asked her “is Daddy going to die?” What a question! Where did THAT come from? Charlotte laughed and said, why on earth would you ask that? Allison said “because he has poison ivy.”
Poison. What does poison do? It kills you. Of course.
In this instance, miscommunication is almost unavoidable. I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me that my seven year old would think that poison ivy would kill me. But how often IS miscommunication avoidable, simply by putting more thought into what we say?
Words matter. The words we choose to use, especially as leaders, can inspire or discourage, build up or tear down. And far too often, FAR too often, as a leader and a follower of Jesus I forget that.
How do we get a reign on this? Here are a few things that I think can help.
1) Pause. That’s a hard one for me. I’m classic type A – why walk when you can sprint? And yet I know that if I would simply pause before responding, often I could choose my words better. I could choose life giving, affirming words. I could choose words that lead well and inspire. But if I just let fly whatever comes into my mind first, 50-50 odds and you pick ’em whether that will be true or not.
2) Fill your mind with good words. Most people I think are familiar with the old computer acronym GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. It refers to the fact that if you put garbage code into a computer, you will get garbage results back. How true is that of our minds (and mouths) as well? This morning I read in Jesus Calling: “Live first and foremost in My presence. Gradually you will become more aware of Me than of people and places around you. This awareness will not detract from your relationships with others. Instead it will increase your ability to give love and encouragement to them.”
That’s who I want to be. And I believe it begins with what I put into my mind – that really affects what comes out of my mouth. Jesus says it this way: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45, NLT)
Leaders especially have to be aware of this. Words mean something; they matter. And our words matter far more than we think they do sometimes. I want to be more intentional about this; I think that’s one way you lead with all diligence.
Have you ever encountered an instance where your words mattered more than you initially thought? What would you add to my list above of things we can do?