Wracked with insecurities and self-doubt, a young woman found herself in my office seeking counseling. Quietly crying, she recounted growing up with emotionally distant parents. She could not recall one encouraging word or one act of support from her mom or dad. On the contrary, her memories were full of criticism, belittling statements, and verbal abuse.
Her heart was encased in a prison of self-doubt and insecurity. If only her parents knew the havoc they inflicted on their daughter’s soul. If only they had believed in her and encouraged her. They could have unlocked her potential, helping her to become confident and secure. Instead, their daughter was broken and deeply wounded.
Over the years I’ve discovered that the most powerful leadership tool we have is our words.
James 3:6 says that “the tongue sets the course of life on fire.” The very existence of one’s life is set into motion by words. This young woman had not reached her full potential because it had not been “spoken" to her by the people who mattered most—her parents.
The message conveyed to their daughter was, “You can’t do anything right. You are a bother to us. Why did we have you? You are one big mistake. You will never amount to anything.” The direction of her life would’ve been much different if she’d heard encouragement like, “You are awesome! What a blessing you are to us. We are so proud of you. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. We are 100 percent for you.”
During our time together, I spoke words of encouragement to her, focusing on her strengths and potential. I helped her establish her identity in Christ by having her focus on the transformative power of Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
The Word of God is alive, and as my client meditated on and memorized Scripture, she began to see herself as Christ sees her, as Christ sees all of us: valuable, loved, and cherished.
What a powerful opportunity we have as life-giving leaders to create an atmosphere of blessing with our words, whether in our homes with our families, in businesses with our employees, or in churches with fellow church members.
Kevin Harney writes in his book Leadership from the Inside Out, “Churches where words of kindness and encouragement are plentiful have the aroma of life. I have walked into congregations and felt the health and joy that exist because of their culture of blessing. The opposite is true. Congregations and staff that are filled with criticism, backbiting, and gossip have the stench of death.”
Simply put, words that do not shine the light of Christ increase the darkness.
I have been a part of organizations where the women in leadership used cuss words as every part of the English language: verbs, nouns, adverbs, and adjectives creating a critical and angry atmosphere--filling it with the “stench of death.”
Sadly, these women missed opportunities to bless and empower their staff. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (NASB).
A life-giving leader knows the importance of setting a guard over her mouth and watching the door of her lips (Ps. 141:3), choosing words that intentionally create an affirming environment. Instead of a culture of criticism and negativity, a life-giving leader blesses with her words. Make your words life-giving, full of mercy, and grace.
Julia is a follower of Christ, wife, mother, writer, communicator, licensed mental health therapist and Pastor of Small Groups at Bayside Community Church. Her book, Life-Giving Leadership: A Woman’s Toolbox for Leading, just launched on April 12th. She is the co-founder of Generation Eve, an online community for women focusing on leadership, relationships and parenting.