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My first posting was titled “Words Matter”, and because I believe so strongly in the power of words to create or destroy, I plan to camp out on “word power” for the next couple of postings.

At the mere mention of “word power,” faces of prominent world leaders pop into mind: John Kennedy, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan — all leaders whose words rocked the world and helped change the course of history for generations to come.

But what about words spoken by everyday leaders: Leaders in organizations of all kinds and sizes–business leaders, church leaders, school leaders, community leaders, and family leaders? You don’t need to be a world leader for your words to influence beyond anything you could think or imagine. Your words are containers with explosive power to imprint a life and change the course of one’s destiny, for better or for worse.

I remember years ago sitting in a program presented by Ron Willingham, author of the excellent book, Selling for the 21st Century. Ron shared with his audience a painful time from his childhood when making model wooden airplanes was all the rage. Ron, excited to try his hand at making one of his own, painstakingly created a model airplane by gluing together dozens of pieces ever-so-carefully, piece by piece by piece, and then took it to show his parents. As he held out his “work of art” for his father to appreciate, his dad looked at the airplane and then looked at Ron’s mother and said, “Do you think he’ll ever learn to do anything right?”

Cut to the quick by his father’s words, Ron took his model wooden airplane to the burn barrel at the back of their home, tore it apart piece by piece, dropped it into the inferno, and watched it go up in flames. Ron never again attempted to make a model wooden airplane.

Words are reflective of the track we run on. One track leads to pleasure, another to pain. One leads to life and the other to death. What track are you running on? Do your words honor and promote others or do they disrespect and harm? Do your words elevate and transform lives or do they bring down and destroy? Do your words create harmony and build unity or do they separate and divide?

Here is my personal challenge for you: For the next week take note of the words you speak. Take a piece of paper and draw a T with the vertical line down the center of the page, creating two columns. Label the heading over the right column BUILDING UP. Label the heading over the left column TEARING DOWN. Then each time your words add something positive to the life of another, make note of it. Each time your words make a negative impact on another, make note of it. At the end of the week, total each column. This will give you some idea as to how positive an influence you are in the lives of others.