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In the words of the famous philosopher Toby Mac, “Some days life feels perfect. Other days it just ain’t workin.” True words from his 2012 song, Speak Life. That song goes on to say, however, that we can “use our words to inspire, joy will fall like rain when we speak life with the words we say.” Our words, including the ones we text, email, express with our faces and hands, may be our most powerful tools. They can do things like:

Encourage or discourage.

Bring joy or bring sadness.

Show love or show hate.

Share peace or disrupt.

Give hope or destroy.

Recognizing the power tools that come from our lips and actions can truly help us realize that the choice to speak life can be transformational in our own lives and in the lives of the others around us.

Read through James Chapter 3. Read it in the translation that you generally use, and then read it in The Message version for a change. I believe this passage leaves us with the following three challenges/tasks:

  1. Plan to say something positive. Make the choice. Be intentional with your words. Make someone’s day with words of kindness and love. Taking that one step further, when you ask someone how they are or how their day is going, be prepared to take the time to listen to be real about it. The simple question, “How are you doing?” isn’t really that simple. Great leaders lead with their ears and then take the time to encourage and build up when needed. (Just the other day, I had a team member call and say, “I’m overwhelmed, and I need my mommy.” Although spoken tongue in cheek, there was deep truth in the comment.)
  2. Realize the power of words and be sure your words are consistent with God’s Word. James 3:5 says that a great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. Just one word can cause an explosion—of joy or of anger. Take time to think about what you talk about and also about the type of conversations that you join. Be sure it is healthy! Christian leaders must commit to being in God’s Word each day if we are going to lead from that source of wisdom.
  3. Listen to the right voice. To hear God’s voice, we have to recognize it and those words come from God’s Word. We all need to be in the Word to know His voice. Our culture speaks many voices at each of us each day, it is sometimes difficult to know who or what to listen to, but knowing the truth and the true voice of God

We all have a choice, but as leaders, I would say that we have an obligation to measure our words very carefully. In our circle of influence, each word, decision, glance and action affects someone. Being in the public eye, we are all influencers, whether we are famous or not. With everyone we come in contact with, we can either offer life to an individual or drain the life out of them. There is no neutral exchange.

The final few verses in James 3 say this, “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”

As children of the Living God, we are called to reflect Jesus through our conduct and conversation. We must commit to make this a priority, doing the hard work to live and work and grow in unity.

Author Jenn Thompson

Jennifer Thompson has served in Christian education for almost twenty-five years in various roles from basketball coach to science teacher, elementary principal to head of school at schools in both Florida and California. A native of Vermont, Jenn has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Wheaton College and a master’s in science in Educational Leadership from Florida International University. She completed the Fellows program at the Van Lunen Center for Executive Management in Christian Schools at Calvin University and currently serves on the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) board. Jenn is the chief executive officer of Christian Schools International.

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