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Speak Life

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

I was reminded recently how foolish it was to say as a child that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I didn’t believe it then, when I said it on the playground in response to a bully, and I don’t believe it now when I hear someone try to tear another down. Even back then, there were lines you couldn’t cross. The wrong poke became, “fight’n words!” For instance, you couldn’t talk about nobody’s Mama. Playtime ceased immediately and, as our General Goldfein says, “Fight’s on!” You just don’t mess with family. Guess what, you are my Family. And I will fight for you!

Words shape the atmosphere. They are powerful. They are lasting. They change the environment. Words can carve or they can cut: two sides of the same blade. Scripture says that the power to give life and death is in the tongue. So, I ask you, what are your words saying to and about your Airmen, your peers, your leadership teams your family? And what are you saying to and about yourself? What are you setting into motion – life or death? Speak life.

I’ve been told time and again that it’s all about actions and deeds, when it’s our words (both spoken and written…or posted) which flow directly from the abundance of our hearts. I submit that motives are in the mouth, not the hand. You mean what you say. Speak life.

It’s proverbial to hold our tongues and it’s often wise to withhold judgement. Patience, empathy and a measure of grace can run their course when we simply spend time at someone’s feet before assuming to know what it must be like to walk in their shoes. My dear mother (may she rest in heaven) taught me that if you can’t find something to speak well of another, then it’s best to just keep your mouth shut. Freedom of speech is NOT freedom from consequence. There are repercussions and effects. Words matter, even when taken out of context. It really doesn’t matter much if words take flight with good intentions; as T.S. Elliott stated, “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” Speak life.

While physical scars heal and broken bones mend, the emotionally-deep bruise from abuse can be life crippling. But there are those that just feel the need to pile on. Why add insult to injury? It does absolutely no good to kick someone when they’re down. In fact, if we back someone who is wounded into a corner with no other way out, why would it be a shock when they lash out.  When someone is hurting, help them up. Talk them off the ledge. Speak Life.

The counter argument I often hear is that we’ve grown too soft and sensitive, too politically correct. That those who manage their mouth are somehow weak. We say that the one who “tells it like it is” had the courage to say what needed to be said, and somehow, we are all the better for it. The truth may be that they are only telling it like they see it, not how it is. We sometimes put too much of a premium on our own perspective. The truth doesn’t have to hurt. Speak life.

Perhaps we should all try harder to speak in proportion to the tools we’ve been graced with to hear. Let’s do more listening to people. Let’s find out what the person beside us is thinking about and interested in. Let’s ask them what’s working and what ideas they have to fix what is not working. Let’s hear them out and just maybe we’ll keep them all in! Let them Speak life.

How do you know if you’re speaking life? Watch your words. I mean literally with your eyes, watch them to see where they go and what they do. See if they are falling on deaf ears or if the seed takes root in someone else and grows into the change you’re hoping for. Our words need to be life giving, uplifting, encouraging and inspiring. We’ve tried it the other way and it hasn’t worked out so well.

Today, if you come to me and say, “I need to talk,” or, “I need some help,” fight’s on and I will be there for you because you are my family.