by Becky Roach
“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me and I may not like you. Ignore me and I may not forgive you. Encourage me and I may not forget you.” – William Arthur Ward
The power of our words is extraordinary. I am realizing this more and more as I get older!
If I flatter someone with my words, I am usually thinking of something I hope to get from them, just to be honest about it. What I say may be true, but my motive is usually my own gain and not theirs. Because of this, if someone flatters me I often wonder What they want from me. Flattery is certainly not a beneficial use of words.
Criticism can be helpful, but only if the person receiving it is open to it. If criticism comes at us as a reaction to our words or actions and we don’t know the person really cares about us, we usually become angry and defensive. We do not benefit from it because we feel that the person just does not understand us or they don’t understand our situation. On the other hand, if someone who truly cares about us feels that we need to know something negative about ourselves, they will come to us in a spirit that says, “I see this problem and I want to spare you trouble and pain, so can I please tell yo this?” When that is the case, we can take it well because we believe they genuinely have our welfare at heart. Criticism truly can be either very constructive or very destructive depending on the person’s motive and method of giving it.
When we ignore someone, we are saying that they do not matter to us at all. I can see why William Arthur Ward would say they will not forgive us, because most people would rather be disliked than be ignored! We definitely need to feel that we matter to people. Because this is true, we also need to make other people feel that they matter to us. People do matter! Everyone’s life is of infinite value. There is no-one who does not matter! No, no-one!
I am not naturally a giver of encouragement. I naturally am a critic. I see the bad, the wrong and the worst in everything and everyone! So, I really need help in this area. It takes a conscious effort for me to encourage someone, or even to encourage myself! But, as this quote so wisely says, when we speak words of encouragement, people may not ever forget us. We never know how deep in despair someone may be and a word hope and encouragement may be what keeps them going. It may even be what keeps them alive!
Let us purpose today to be not the one who flatters, criticizes, or ignores, but the one who encourages. I think one of the greatest epitaphs that could be written, when we are gone from this world, would be for someone to say “They encouraged me. They gave me the strength to keep going.” Or, “Their words pointed me to the eternal truth and I will never be the same because of them.”
When we encourage someone else, we cannot help but be encouraged ourselves.