I’ve been sharing a lot in the past couple of weeks about negative self-talk, your inner critic and overcoming self-doubt, self-criticism and self-sabotage. Well, as always, there’s another side to the story.

You see, the things you say to others, also matters. Your words can motivate, encourage and inspire others to action. Or, they can break someone’s spirit, put them down or discourage them from reaching their goals and dreams. I know this because I’ve been guilty of doing that a time or two.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I was recently reminded of an incident where I should have remembered Paul’s wise advice.

Here’s what happened.

Not too long ago, I attended a surprise 50th birthday party for a close friend. One part of the festivities included each guest sharing a video-taped favorite story about our friend. One of the guests told a story that included “the birthday girl,” another friend and me.

Many years ago, as we were all starting out in our legal careers in the District Attorney’s Office, we asked the young attorney to have lunch with us. During lunch we shared with her the reason why our bosses were not taking her seriously and promoting her to a position of authority. We told her that she dressed too provocatively and that she needed to lower her hemlines.  

As you can probably guess, our “great advice” did not go over well and earned us the nickname of the “Fashion Police.” I cringed as I heard the re-telling of the story and wondered what I had been thinking when my two friends and I decided to handle the situation the way that we did.

Have you ever said something that you wish you hadn’t said or maybe that you’d said in a different way? After all, what we told our young co-worker was the absolute truth, but we handled the situation all wrong. 

Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)

There’s a saying that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Perhaps our co-worker would have been more receptive to our advice if we had spent more time getting to know her and building a relationship with her before sharing our information. Most people are more receptive to truth once they know that you care about them and love them. 

Build each other up (Ephesians 4:29)

Our words should edify our brothers and sisters. Proverbs 18:21 says that the tongue has the power of life and death. Our tongue has the ability to destroy when we engage in gossip, unhealthy or unfair criticism and careless and demeaning words. My former co-worker was so devastated by the conversation we had with her that she questioned her career choice. Thank God that she didn’t allow our lunchtime advice to discourage her from continuing in a field in which she has experienced tremendous success, despite her short skirts.

Live in peace (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

The Word says that we are to search for ways to get along with others. None of us live in a bubble. We have to interact with people in just about every facet of our lives. Using encouraging words can help us live in peace with others. After our little lunchtime chat, my friends and I not only became the new topic of office chit chat, but more importantly, we caused a lot of unnecessary strife and confusion in our office.                                                                                  

The Bible tells us to pray continually about everything. If we’re going to be encouragers and if we want to speak life into the lives of others, then prayer before speaking is a must. It’s so easy for me to say what I think should be said – and sometimes I’m right and at other times, so wrong. However, if I remember to pray before speaking, I think I would get it right a lot more often.