February 8, 2016
A Lesson from Dr. Seuss
Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right response for everyone (Colossians 4:6, NLT).
Friend to Friend
Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite authors. I recently read an article that said the famed children’s author loved challenges. In 1959, the co-founder of his publishing company bet Dr. Seuss that he could not write an actual book with a good story using fifty words or less. Dr. Seuss quickly accepted the bet. The result? The beloved book, “Green Eggs and Ham.” To date it has sold over 200 million copies – using only 49 words in its entirety. Dr. Seuss might be on to something.
Less is often more. When it comes to words with impact, being long-winded is not a value. But speaking the right words can be life changing.
The spoken word is powerful, and spoken words of encouragement can bring great comfort. The idea is not to speak many words, but to speak the right words. Consider this:
- The Lord’s Prayer contains 71 words.
- The Gettysburg Address contains 272 words.
- The Ten Commandments contains 139 words.
- The Declaration of Independence contains 1323 words.
- A U.S. government order setting the price of cabbage contains 26,911 words.
Written notes of encouragement often carry even greater impact because they can be kept and read again and again.
In the midst of my struggle with depression, I would often slip into a worship service at our church through a side door to escape being noticed. I came in late to worship one day and sat off to the side in order to avoid questioning eyes and concerned stares. My timing was bad because I had managed to get there just in time to welcome the visitors. I simply had no energy or desire to shake hands or smile at anyone, so I sat in my chair hoping everyone would understand and leave me alone.
Then I saw him coming. One of our deacons had spotted me and was walking across the auditorium with a big smile on his face. I wanted to run. He put his arm around my shoulder and gently hugged me. He never said a word, but pressed a piece of paper into my hand and left as quickly as he had come. Through tears I read the precious note that said, “I love you and am praying for you. If you or Dan ever need me for anything, I am here.” Healing comfort flooded my wounded heart, and I found I had the strength to stay.
It’s not how long we talk or how many eloquent words we use that matters. It is what we say that is so important. The words we use are like seeds. What we plant will grow.
I believe God gives us spiritual “radar’ so we can assess a situation and speak the right word for that circumstance. In Colossians 4:6 Paul writes, “Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” We just need to check the “radar screen” before we speak.
God will take and use the words we speak and write to bring hope and give comfort. The right word – given at the right time and in the right way - can bring order in the midst of confusion, light on a very dark path, and wisdom to a questioning heart.
Father, I come today asking for Your forgiveness for the careless words I speak. Please teach me how to control my tongue. Create in me a clean heart. Give me a holy desire to encourage and build others up with my words.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Colossians 4:6. “Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.”
How would you describe words that are “gracious?”
How can our words be “effective” in the lives of others?
What do you think Paul means when he says that we can have the “right answer for everyone?”
More from the Girlfriends
Learning to control anger can help us control many of the careless words we speak. Need help? Get Mary’s powerful six-week Bible Study, Anger Management 911, for a seven-step plan that will help you learn to control anger and the destructive words that anger can produce.
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Originally published Monday, 08 February 2016.