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Every Word Matters

Sometimes the hardest thing to say is "I'm sorry."

(But the rest of the time it's "Worcestershire sauce.")

I saw this play out at a professional football game I took my boys to. Halfway through second quarter, two guys sat down behind us and started cussing up a storm. I noticed how it was affecting everyone around us, including an older couple who seemed frustrated but unsure if they should say anything.

Ever been in one of those moments?

There is power in words... and often there is a lack of power in silence.

I quickly prayed for wisdom and discerned an action plan. I ended up standing up, leaning close to one of the men, and saying, “Sir, I have young kids with me and I'd like to ask you to please cut down on the swearing.”

My sincerity and manners seemed to register. He responded back, “Yeah, you got it. I do apologize.” I thanked him and sat back down.

About ten minutes later, I heard him slide another swear word out of reaction to something in the game. He commented to his friend, “Oops, that slipped." A moment later he added, "Wait a minute… we're at a FOOTBALL game… now you know people are gonna be swearing at a football game… if somebody thinks this is bad. wait until the season really starts!”

Apparently the words in his apology earlier wasn't as sincere as it appeared to be.

Thankfully, the guy didn't regress back into a curse fest. I did notice after the game, though, all sorts of signs throughout the stadium that said fans were required to refrain from, “Using or displaying foul or inflammatory language or gestures.”

So... it's out there. Signs like these are posted with information waiting to be claimed.

There is power in words... and often there is a lack of power in silence.

Does this matter, though? And if it does, can we do anything about it?

Proverbs 12:6 reveals, “The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.” (NLT)

This God-given truth is why we think about what to say in a job interview or on a date. We know that words count and there is a righteous standard out there somewhere that seems to have faded in the midst of cultural habits. Every area of the world has words in its language that add or subtract a sense of life.

Your household has them, too.

You may not be able to moderate everything in the world, but you can impact how things play out for your family... if you speak up:

  • Uncover personal preferences: Ask everyone, "What words or name-calling make you feel especially frustrated when anyone uses them toward you? Which words make you feel especially inspired when anyone uses them toward you?" Talk about the reason behind some of their answers, and don't be afraid to reply to the questions yourself.
  • Agree on power words: Certain words like "love" can become so commonplace in our everyday language that they seem to lose their power. We say we "love" each other, but then we also say that we "love" a certain TV show. Discuss this and decide which words you'd like to help each other only use for their higher values, including eliminating their opposites (i.e. "hate" or "shut up") from your family vocabulary.
  • Recognize overlooked accomplishments: Some things worth celebrating are easy to spot, like when a kid gets a good grade at school, or a spouse gets a promotion. But pay attention to the daily stuff and acknowledge it with words too (this doesn't just mean kids, but also spouses!) Thank each other for the tiring work that often goes unnoticed, such as a kind gesture to a sibling, taking responsibility for cleaning up, or affirming family members for saying "thank you."

As a friend pointed out to me recently, we’re seemingly outnumbered. My wife even noticed how the word "crap" was being used on the children's show "The Electric Company" as a rhyming word. Basic cable stations like TBS and more freely integrate profanity into their programming. Maybe it is all a lost cause.

Then again, I'm the crazy guy at professional sporting events asking for something other than the way things are.... and you're the bold parent or caregiver who's taking the time to read this.

It's an uphill battle, but it's worth fighting for.

There is power in words... and often there is a lack of power in silence.

Be fearless.

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