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Words are important. We inherently know that as young children, twirling in a new dress, eager for our fathers to speak admiration over us. We know it as teenagers, holding our breath when we present our report cards or confess to taking out the neighbor’s mailbox with the car. And we know it as newlyweds, hoping our spouse will comment on how great the yard looks or acknowledge our new haircut.
Words matter a lot. The Bible makes this clear, even going so far to say that words aren’t just powerful, they’re literally life and death to our souls and hearts. Proverbs 18:21 reads “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
All of us wield this power as family members, friends, co-workers, and parents. But which weapon are we waving over our loved ones? A weapon that will help them fight for life and truth, or a weapon that will contribute to the slow deterioration of their confidence, self-image and heart?
The secret to this powerful weapon is deciding if you’re going to use it for good or for evil. All of us tend to take the words we hear and apply them to our very selves, rather than simply to our behaviors. Even in the strongest, healthiest of relationships, it’s hard to hear criticism without taking it personally.
We hear “what took you so long?” and instantly slap a label on our shirt that reads “lazy.” We hear “why’d you skip the gym today?” and immediately apply the label “fat.” We hear “who is that woman who commented on your social media page?” and suddenly begin to wear the label “un-trustworthy.”
What labels are you placing on yourself—and what labels are you allowing others to place on you? This is important to discern, because we tend to become what we believe are our labels.
If we’re not careful, we’ll walk around all day, layering nametags on our backs until we’re completely covered. “Rejected.” “Unwanted.” “Useless.” “Dumb.” Most of these labels stem from simple miscommunication and misinterpretation. But we wear them just the same, until we forget what we look like underneath and lose our true identity.
It doesn’t help that Satan and the enemy camp are often lurking in the wings, ready to whisper affirmation of the lies we concocted. What might start out as a simple “wow, she sings really well” becomes in our minds “she sings better than you” and then morphs directly into “she is better than you.” Before we know it, the label “worthless” is fixated to our heart and we begin to operate from that perspective. It clouds every single thing we do and every interaction we have afterward. We act from what we believe about ourselves.
But what if we grabbed that magic marker away from the enemy and made some changes on those nametags? What if we crossed out the negatives and began replacing them with the positives, with truths from God’s Word about being daughters of the King? About being loved? About being worth dying for?
Better yet, what if we as women began to call other women out on their true selves, too, and helped them see their real identity? Talk about mass panic ensuing in the enemy camp. It would turn the spiritual realm on its head if women began to fight for each other, instead of against each other.
However subconsciously, we strive to become what we hear about ourselves the most frequently—for better or for worse. So what if we determined that it be for the better?
One time, I wore a pink shirt to the gym that said “Fearless” on the front. That day, I needed help removing a heavy weight from the cables. I frequently see these two older men in the gym, who always work out together and egg each other on. They saw me struggling with the weight and came to my assistance. Now, every time they see me, they holler across the weight room, “Hey, Fearless!” Or “Hey, everyone, Fearless is here!” or “What’s up, Fearless?”
I got a nickname that I feel I don’t live up to—in the gym or beyond. Me, fearless? Hardly. It once took two pairs of shoes, a can of furniture polish and a chair to kill a wasp. (don’t ask) I’m the girl who ran a red light to get away from a clown, and who keeps a flashlight close if there’s a single rumble of thunder in the distance. When it comes to working out, I’m definitely more cautious than fearless. I’ll occasionally try new exercises—but hesitantly and usually in the corner where no one can watch me fail.
But when I hear that nickname in the gym, it inspires me. It boosts a little part of me that I didn’t even realize needed encouragement. It makes me up the resistance on the elliptical and try one more rep when I feel like my arms are turning into noodles.
It makes me want to try to live up to the name.
As women, we need that reminder—to encourage each other, not only woman to woman, but toward our spouses and children. To help them become what we call them. To help them realize their identity.
So grab that marker. Cross out the inaccurate labels you’ve been wearing and write in the new ones. Scratch out Ugly, Useless, Ashamed, and Rejected. In it’s place write Beautiful, Worthy, Forgiven, and Wanted.
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Remember, the enemy won’t like this. He’ll try to rewrite the same lies over and over. Your labels might be a mess for awhile—a lot of scratching out, erasing, and rewriting. Keep at it. And when you’ve got the hang of it, do the same for your spouse. Attractive, Provider, Respected, and Admired.
Then do it for your kids. Loved, Accepted, Protected, and Capable.
Then do it for your best friend. For your mom. And for your sister and your pastor’s wife and that woman on social media of whom you often find yourself feeling jealous. Do it for your co-worker and your UPS delivery driver and your neighbor. Pray for them with each stroke of your pen. Speak truth and life into them—wield your marker in a way that’s going to boost, inspire and encourage. Then step back and watch the transformation.
They just might become fearless.
Image Credit: ©Thinkstock.com/gpointstudio
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her newest novel LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES releases via Zondervan Fiction in June 2015. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and ww