Verbally, nothing more powerful than affirmation

Proverbs 18:21 highlights the power of words stating that, “Words can bring death or life!..."

Proverbs 18:21 highlights the power of words stating that, “Words can bring death or life!…” Jesus taught that words are indicative of the heart of the speaker. He said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart…the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).

Author Jim Burns wrote, “…for every critical comment we receive, it takes nine affirming comments to even out the negative effect in our life.” Some say Burns numbers are high, but there is almost universal agreement that negative outweighs positive.

I believe that the source is more important than the words. If someone I highly respect directs critical statements toward me, I will be affected profoundly. Conversely, someone who has already proven themselves to be chronically disparaging, intentionally hurtful or sarcastic … well, that just runs off more easily. Bottom line? I believe there’s nothing, in the verbal world, more powerful than affirmation! Let me illustrate from my childhood.

On a Saturday evening, when I was 9, my two older brothers and I were in the back seat of the car on our way to town. My father had given each of us $.25. My mother noticed the coins and said, “Helmer, you can’t keep giving those boys that kind of money!” My father, a very hard worker, and on the strict and stern side of things himself replied, “Evie, those boys work like men for me; I want to treat them like men!”

We can chuckle about the $.25, but I cannot adequately explain the powerful, positive impact that my dad’s affirmation had on me that day. I can tell you that the influence of it is with me to this day…I believe that both my self-image and work ethic were affected in a lasting and meaningful fashion. As suggested earlier, the source of the affirmation is what made it significant.

Now, an illustration from the Bible. 2000 years ago 3 men were on Roman crosses in a place called Golgotha. One of them, having observed the sinless Savior, decided it was time for a life change; bad timing in that it was the last day of his life, but good in that he’d begun to have hopes about the next life. He asked Jesus to, “Remember me when you come into power!” Jesus, affirming his sincere and searching heart replied, “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42,43).

My father’s affirmation affected me for life…Jesus’ affirmation redirected a felon to eternal life. Who will you affirm this week? Will your words “bring death or life”?

Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.

— Faith & Reflection