by Kirk Hayes.
“Son, I love you and am so proud of you.” It’s easy to see the power of those words. Perhaps you heard them from your father. If not, I pray you have said them to your own son (or daughter).
This is basically what the Father said to Jesus at his baptism: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, and again in 17:5 on the mountain). The fact that our heavenly Father felt it was important to verbalize his feelings towards his son should be a shout-out to us that we need to do the same.
Have you reflected on the power of words to shape the world? Consider a couple of well-known scriptures:
“And God said, ‘Let…’” (Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24).
“In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1).
Words are so powerful that God used them to create. Similarly, our words have a profound influence on our families—on our wives, sons and daughters. As a father, I am sure you are much like me in that you have moments you are not proud of, but to be fair, there are times you get it right. When you botch it, don’t lose heart. You may be dealing with baggage handed down to you from your parents, who got it from their parents, and so on. While this does not give you permission to pass the baggage on to your kids, God is understanding.
It is not healthy nor helpful to practice self-flagellation by beating yourself up. The words you speak to yourself have power to shape your own heart. So be kind and gentle with yourself. After all, Jesus said the greatest command is to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The more kindly you speak to yourself, the gentler you will be with your family. You need to love yourself. One brother in Christ, Wesley Hill, has said, “Be patient with all that is unfinished within you.” I believe it is accurate to say that God is more patient with our shortcomings than we are with ourselves.
But, beyond being patient with yourself when you fail, move forward and set realistic goals for how you can use your words to build up your family (Ephesians 4:29). I am 57 now, and back in my early 30’s I heard that we should have a 10-1 ratio of encouraging over critical words. While I did not keep a daily tally, over the years that suggestion helped me. My natural tendency was to be more critical than encouraging. I could fixate on things that bothered me with our three sons. I could major on the minors—make mountains out of molehills. In fact, during one such period, I had a very calm and realistic dream that one of the boys died. I woke, and with tears, had the clear impression the dream was a gentle rebuke from our loving Father to cherish and enjoy the boys. I wasn’t flawless after that, but I did better.
One other helpful dad tip I received concerning the power of words was this: don’t wear your kids out with them, i.e., consider the best words for the issue at hand, and then speak them kindly. Even if you are “a man of few words,” those few words of encouragement, or gentle rebuke, can powerfully impact your kids.
Let’s finish with this question: where in the world do we get the power to use our words constructively? Well, that gets to the heart of the matter. While it’s not impossible to control our tongues apart from the grace of God in our lives, the consensus of many good and wise people who have gone before us is that ultimately, we can shape and transform our sons and daughters only when we submit to the lordship of Jesus, and have his Spirit living in us.
Kirk Hayes is the President of South Houston Bible Institute
(www.shbi.org). Formerly Bible & Missions Instructor and Spiritual Life
Minister at Lubbock Christian University, Kirk also has over 15 years of
missions experience in Kenya. Kirk and his wife Susan live in Houston, and
their three sons and families serve as missionaries in Malawi and Uganda.