You need to learn a new kind of vocabulary.
Instead of saying, “I have some failures,” say, “I have some lessons.”
Instead of saying, “I have some problems,” say, “I have some hidden blessings.”
Instead of saying, “I’m going through a crisis,” say, “I’m going through a transformational experience.”
Instead of saying, “I don’t have money,” say, “I’m temporarily broke but the blessings are on the way.”
If you want to change your life, you need to change your talk.
Everyday, a tidal wave of words flow out of your mouth.
Studies say that men speak 20,000 words a day. And women speak 30,000. (I didn’t invent that. Just reporting the facts. But I’m sure you know of some exceptions. There are men who speak 50,000 words a day, like Preachers like me.)
Don’t be shocked. If you live until 90, a typical person would have spoken 730 million words. If someone just recorded all that you said, and put them in book form, you would have written 14,600 books.
Pretty amazing, right?
But it’s not the quantity of words that’s important. It’s the quality of the words that’s important. The quality of your words will determine the quality of your life—including the life of the people around you.
Do your words bless or curse?
Do your words heal or cause disease?
Do your words give life or give death?
Do your words nourish or poison?
Do your words lift up or lower down?
Do your words encourage or discourage?
Be careful with your words…
3 Kinds Of Bread
You know this already—God’s Word is like bread. It always nourishes. (Matthew 4:4)
But here’s something you may not know: God designed your words to also become nourishing bread.
But in reality, our words aren’t always nourishing.
In fact, I compare our words to three kinds of bread: wheat bread, white bread, and waste bread.
Wheat Bread has all the nourishment intact. It has vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, folic acid… And fiber. (That’s why it’s chewy.) Fiber prevents heart attacks and sweeps your intestines clean.
White Bread tastes nice and soft and delicious. But it doesn’t nourish. It doesn’t make you healthy. Because white bread is made of white flour, and it’s stripped from all vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Waste Bread is bread that is stale. It’s already covered with mold and bacteria. It can actually poison you and make you sick.
Our words can be like one of these three kinds of bread.
Let me explain…
1. Wheat Bread
God wants your words to be like Wheat Bread. They nourish you and they nourish others.
The bible says that what we say should be good and helpful and encouraging (Ephesians 4:29). If it’s not good and helpful and encourage, don’t say it.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)
One day, I was going through a crisis. Correction. I was going through “a transformational experience”.
It was a time when both my ministries and businesses were going through a tough time. I felt beaten. Defeated. Worn out. I exhausted physically and emotionally.
Right after the Feast, a woman came up to me. And she said, “Bo, you don’t know how you changed my life. Spiritually. Emotionally. Financially. Thank you so much…”
I’ve heard those lines before. Many times. But at that particular time, when I felt discouraged, those words healed me.
But let’s admit it.
Many times, our words don’t encourage at all…
2. White Bread
Many of our words are like White Bread. We speak without purpose. We speak without love. They don’t discourage, but they don’t encourage too. We speak uselessly.
Jesus says, You can be sure that on the Judgment Day you will have to give account of every useless word you have ever spoken. (Matthew 12:36)
What is the Bible saying? Don’t waste your words.
If you have an opportunity to encourage, to inspire, to lift up, and to coach someone—do so. Because people are hungry for nourishment, wisdom, and love. Don’t waste your time by speaking empty words.
And what’s the worst kind of bread of all?
3. Waste Bread
Like Waste Bread, your words can poison.
Your mouth is a deadly weapon.
Your words can destroy your children and their future. Your words can destroy your families and your friendships. Your words can destroy your world.
One day, I was talking to a young man who was messed up. He didn’t finish school, he didn’t have a job, he was taking drugs…. In other words, he was really lost.
And then we began talking about his father.
That was when his face began to grimace in pain.
He said, “Brother Bo, I’m 23 years old. In all those years, I’ve never heard my father say nice things to me. Not once did he say he was happy with me. Everytime he talked to me, it was always to tell me I was wrong. And he kept telling me, ‘I’m ashamed that you’re my son! You’ll never amount to anything!’”
Words killed his future.
Because words can be poisonous.
Everytime you open your mouth, you can choose: You can cure or you can curse. It’s up to you.
Let me tell you a true story.
There were two altar boys who lived in two different cities serving in two different churches, but both of them wanted to become priests.
And both of them had the exact same experience.
One altar boy was late for Mass. Because he was in a hurry to do everything he needed to do, he accidentally hit the chalice that contained the wine.
After the Mass, the priest called the boy and shouted, “Get out of here! You’ll never serve as an altar boy!”
At another church, the other altar boy was also late for Mass. And he too hit the chalice that contained the wine, pouring it onto the red carpet. After the Mass, the priest—who happened to be a Bishop—called the altar boy and said, “Hey, everybody makes mistakes. I’m clumsy too. So you know what? Maybe you’ll become a priest too…” and he chuckled.
30 years later, that altar boys became Archbishop Fulton Sheen, one of the most loved religious leaders in America.
The other altar boy? He became Joseph Tito, the ruthless dictator of Yugoslavia, and an atheist.
Words are powerful. They can heal. They can bless. They can encourage. Or they can also curse. They can destroy.
Let me give you four examples.
Complement Or Complain
Admit it. Every child is part monster and part angel.
What part will win?
It depends on what part you pour attention to…
Behavior is the plant. Attention is the water.
If you tell your son a thousand times, “You’re a monster! You’re so disobedient!” you’re pouring attention into the monster part. And that monster part will grow, pushing out the angel part—until your child becomes all monster.
Instead of complaining, do the opposite: Complement!
It sounds nuts. But try it out.
For many parents, their preoccupation is to catch their kids doing wrong. Change that. Be preoccupied catching your kids doing good.
If he cares for his baby brother, “Son, I love the way you take care of your younger brother; I’m so proud you’re my son…”;
If you find him happy in your family meals, then tell him, “Thanks for enjoying our time together as a family; it warms my heart that you’ve grown up to be a loving boy.”;
Words like these will change your son.
Remember, your words can bring out the best or the worst in others.
It depends on what words you choose.
Why? People will treat you the way you treat them.
If you keep complaining about their bad behavior, you’ll get more of that bad behavior. If you complement them about their good behavior, you’ll get more of that good behavior.
That’s just how life works.
Here’s the principle: Your words create your world.
Which brings me to my second example…
Correct Or Criticize
Don’t get me wrong. You should correct. That’s part of love. You just need to know how to do it.
You can correct to love or you can criticize to shame. Love is both the motive and manner of your correction.
And always correct within the context of a deep relationship of trust. Don’t correct someone when the relationship isn’t strong.
But sometimes, we go to the other extreme. Even within a close relationship, we don’t correct. Because we want to be popular instead of loving. It’s true: Like Wheat Bread, correction is difficult to chew. It’s not as easy to eat as Wheat Bread. But that’s why you have to do it, because it’s nutritious.
Here’s a third example…
Refresh Or Ridicule
When I was a kid, I was never good in Sports.
So I dreaded Physical Education. Whenever I had P.E. class in the afternoon, I’d already be wishing I’d get sick that day. So that I’d have an excuse not to attend P.E.
Because almost every class, kids would ridicule me.
It didn’t matter if it was basketball or volleyball or soccer.
I was a klutz.
I couldn’t seem to hit or catch the ball. I couldn’t understand why I was so uncoordinated.
When I was 9-years old, my P.E. was baseball. And I was even more terrified.
True enough, at practice, I couldn’t catch the ball—even if I had that oversized glove.
I was so bad at catching, the Teacher assigned me to the farthest spot in the field. And with his booming voice, he told everyone, “Try to hit your ball towards that kid over there,” pointing to me. “Because he won’t catch the ball, and you’ll get a home run!” He laughed loudly, slapping his knee many times. And all the kids laughed with him.
I pretended to laugh too.
But my little heart was crying inside.
For the next 15 years, I never joined any sport.
When my teacher ridiculed me, something broke within me. Because my Teacher was a person of authority. In my mind, I told myself, “He must know what he’s talking about. He’s my teacher. He says I’m worthless. I’m the most worthless kid in the universe.”
Be careful with ridicule. Be careful with negative humor. Here’s my realization: Nothing hurts more than words. The Bible says, The words of the reckless pierce like swords. (Proverbs 12:18)
If you punch someone really hard on the jaw, the swelling subsides after some days. If you cut someone with a knife, the cut heals after some weeks. But if you say something deeply hurting, the damage can remain for the rest of your life.
Society values humor so much, for the sake of making people laugh, we ridicule other people. (I believe negative humor and poking fun at others has a place—between very close friends.)
But I realize that nothing can be more hurting than humiliation. I wish kids would come with a big sign that says, “Fragile—Handle With Care”. So that we won’t be careless with our words.
Don’t ridicule. Don’t shame people.
Use your words instead to refresh others.
When you want to gossip, bite your tongue. It will hurt you, but it won’t hurt your friends.
Someone asked me, “But I’m not spreading gossip. I’m spreading truth. She really is selfish and rude!”
But even if you’re right, don’t do it.
People are cruelest when they know they are right.
There are people who enjoy pointing out the mistakes of others. It’s almost a hobby. It has become second nature. They love sitting down in judgment and telling the world about people’s weaknesses.
“He’s a good speaker, but he’s full of air.”
“Shay’s pretty but not very bright.”
“My boss is a total jerk.”
“Barry looks like a retard.”
Are you going to say something nasty?
And if someone is about to tell you something nasty about someone else, excuse yourself.
You can say, “I don’t want to color my opinion towards that person.”
If you have no choice but to listen, tell yourself, “I’m not going to believe this one-sided story. I’ll suspend judgment and give the other the benefit of the doubt.”
Instead of gossiping about the garbage, gossip about the good. Spread the good qualities of the people around you!
Gossip Is Difficult To Undo
One day, a young woman spread gossip about an old woman living beside her house. And the old woman’s reputation was tainted forever. After a few months, the young woman had pangs of guilt for what she did. With much courage, she knocked on the door of the old woman.
When the old woman saw her, the young woman said, “I’ve done you wrong. I’ve come to ask for forgiveness. I’m sorry…”
The old woman said, “Come in.”
Sitting on the couch, she told her younger neighbor, “I forgive you. But can you do something for me? It’s a special ritual…” She stood up and entered the room and the kitchen. She came back, bringing with her a pillow and a knife. She handed them to the young woman and said, “Please go up to the roof of my house and stab this pillow and rip it.”
The young woman was perplexed. But she did what she was told to do. She went up the roof, plunged the knife into the pillow, and instantly, feathers flew far and wide, carried by the wind.
When she went down, she returned the torn pillow and knife to the old woman.
The old woman said, “I have one last thing I want you to do for me. Go out now into the street and collect all the feathers…”
A tear escaped the young woman’s eye. She knew her neighbor was trying to tell her something. “I’m so sorry, but that can’t be done,” she said. “They’ve scattered into different directions.”
The old woman nodded. “I’m not angry with you. I’m just giving you a correction in love. From now on, please only speak good words. If you have nothing good to say, don’t say it anymore. Because your words will be carried by the wind in every direction—and you won’t be able to take them back.”
And the young woman softly wept.
Friend, you can still gossip. But only gossip about the good in others. Broadcast the wonderful qualities of others to the world.
Conclusion: What’s Your Order?
So far, I’ve been talking about your conversations with others.
But remember, the most important conversation you’ll ever have in your life is the conversation you have with yourself.
What you say to yourself matters, because your words are prophetic.
Because life is like a restaurant.
And the universe is like a waiter, with pen and paper in hand, waiting for your order. What you constantly say, that waiter will deliver to you on a silver platter.
I know many people who curse themselves with their words.
I know people who put themselves down. They belittle themselves. They shame themselves.
I’ve heard people say, “I can’t do it,” and “I’m no good,” and “I’ll never be successful.” They don’t understand that they’re words are prophetic. They’re creating their world by their words.
I’ve heard poor people say, “I’m poor,” and “I have no money,” many times a day. Their words make their experience permanent.
Make a decision today to bless yourself with your words.
Complement yourself. Say good things about yourself!
Many times a day, announce to the world, “I’m blessed. I’m anointed. I’m favored. I’m a champion. I’m amazing. I’m a wonderful person. I’m rich in every possible way. I’m the beloved of God…”
This truth applies when you speak to others too.
Because you’re the first listener.
If you speak encouraging words to somebody, before you encourage that person, you’re actually encouraging yourself. But if you speak discouraging words to somebody, before you discourage that person, you’re actually discouraging yourself.
Speaking is like holding a knife without a handle. If the knife is sharp, it wounds you first before it wounds others.
Let me repeat: The quality of your words will change the quality of your life.
Speak God’s words and change your world!
May your dreams come true,
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