Larry Nettles is a close friend. We went to college together at Rice University. He once told me this story:
When I was growing up, I desperately wanted to be an athlete. My dad played basketball at the University of Texas. But I was terrible at sports. I was horrible at football, basketball, and baseball.
When I got to high school, my dad encouraged me to try cross-country running. I did. After a time, the coach, Coach Dunlap, said to me,
“I think you are going to be good.”
I was astounded. No one had ever said that to me. So I asked him, “Why do you say that?”
“Because you have rhythm when you run. You have mental toughness. You have self-discipline.”
I thought to myself, “I could be good!” I doubled my mental toughness and self-discipline. I worked hard. I rose to the expectations. I got better and better. I set school records. I became one of the best runners in Texas. I got a full athletic scholarship to Rice University.
Then, Larry paused and looked intently into my eyes.
“Those words changed my life in more ways than you can imagine.”
He went on to tell me that Coach Dunlap’s words gave him confidence in every area of his life. He began to see himself differently. He said it changed the path of his life.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” With our words, we can breathe life into people. And with our words, we can bring death into people.
Wise is the man or woman who speaks words that breathe life, build up, encourage, and affirm.
Wise is the person who is forever alert to speak words of life to a child, a spouse, a friend, a student, a neighbor, a coworker, a stranger, a clerk at Wal-Mart, or someone who looks troubled.
Life-giving words. We can change lives forever. Words like these: I love you. I respect you. I believe in you. I am so proud of you. You can do this. You are so good at painting. I love the way you shared your toys with your brother. Could I pray for you right now? You are going to get through this, for God will see you through. I have been praying for you every day. I am so sorry; will you forgive me? Thank you so much for that gift. When words like these are spoken from the heart, they breathe life into people.
You can make such a difference with your words.
Be careful what words you use. Make them sweet because they will come back to you and you’ll have to eat them.