Keats, one of England’s great poets, died before receiving acclaim. During his lifetime, one of his critics called his poetry, “fricassee of dead dogs”. Ouch! Words can really hurt—or heal.
The children’s taunt is not true. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Tim Hansel tells of going to a Christmas presentation of a Bach oratorio. The white-haired organist not only played the music but directed the choir. Tim Hansel was enthralled. At the end of the concert he ran up to the front, and said to the organist. “That was wonderful. It has made my Christmas season special.” To his shock, the organist burst into tears. Hansel quickly turned away, sure that he had offended him.
Before he could go, the organist grabbed his arm. “Not you son, You just caught me by surprise. I’ve been here 18 years. You are the first person who has done that.”
Tim Hansel left that concert determined to never fail to encourage people. Encouraging words have enormous power to uplift and cheer us on our way.
Mary Helen has had a lot of medical tests recently, especially after a midnight race to the hospital with what was diagnosed as atrial fibrillation. One of the specialists, in explaining her options, commented, “This could happen again at any time. In a month, or six months, or years later.”
I’m sure he was just trying to be accurate and give Mary Helen a sober assessment. But his words were not very comforting, especially when he neglected to explain that this might not happen again with the treatment he was prescribing. Perhaps he was taught to err on the side of caution, since he might get sued. But we had expected thoughtful soothing words. Is she to live now on pins and needles worried that her blood pressure might rise precipitously?
According to Hebrews, we need to be intentional about spreading encouragement. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24,25).
Many people are sad, discouraged, or depressed. They need a lift. So wherever we are, whomever we meet, let’s try to spread words of encouragement and appreciation. The gas station. The grocery store. To our neighbours. By a word, a smile, a phone call, a card, or even an email.