I can’t remember exactly how I met Nancy Canestrari Williams, but I believe it was thru my good friend, Michele King. I was honored to be co-chair when Michele was chair of the Washington County Foundation, Ballad Health. Nancy and Michele are both delights and I wish I could spend more time with each of them.
Several weeks ago, Nancy and I had a delightful conversation. We decided we would do a guest blog post for each other soon. We spoke a couple of weeks ago, and determined that this would be the week for the guest blog post. I know you’ll enjoy Nancy’s words; here is a link to her blog for what she wrote about my work: https://lightbournecreative.com/author/lightbournec/
Nancy Canestrari Williams is a Christian wife, mom, and author as well as a writer/communications professional representing Lightbourne Creative. She has more than 40 years’ experience in public relations, advertising, marketing, employee communications, writing, and photography for national and regional firms, including FedEx and other Fortune 500 industries. She has a master’s degree in journalism and also served as an adjunct instructor at a Christian college for a decade, teaching PR strategies and practices to the next generation of professionals. She and her husband, Mark, are active members at Westminster Presbyterian Church and have two grown children, Elizabeth and Alex. In 2019, Williams published her first book, A Crocus in the Desert, as a devotional book to help women experiencing infertility.
THE HEALING POWER OF WORDS
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
Recently, a friend confided in me about an ache in her soul, a heart wound that went deep. This news intensified my awareness of her situation, and I began to more carefully plan my conversations with her, to avoid saying anything that might cause her additional pain. Even so, I fear I may have overstepped my boundaries at one point, and I regret it. I am hopeful that she was able to overlook my blunder.
Our words, when carelessly tossed about, can cause long-term damage. Critical comments, angry accusations, selfish peeves, and snooty gossip are weapons of warfare, and sometimes the recipients throw them back at us. Most of the time, though, I’ll bet we don’t even realize we’ve thrown out daggers in the first place, especially if those around us react with silence.
I learned a lot about “trigger words” during research for my devotional book, A Crocus in the Desert. As I interviewed women who had endured infertility, I found specific comments that were fully acceptable to some would cause significant trauma to others. For example, the words “biological” versus “adopted” were “triggers” that blasted a hole in conversations with women who had not gone through pregnancy. Women who were childless in singlehood were somehow treated differently from married women, even though both endured the same heartache. These were revelations to me, even though I had experienced some of the same issues myself. My perspective changed as I realized how differently we all processed our reactions to this painful journey.
The converse of all this is also true. When we use words that build up, comfort, and encourage, we pour healing balm into broken hearts. We soften the intensity of the suffering. We lighten the loads of others and feel our own spirits lifted as well.
In the current COVID crisis, we’re all under significant stress in our homes and relationships. Conflicts rage around us, from masking to politics to responsibility for household chores…and our words can either add to the divisions or build bridges. It’s more essential than ever that we battle evil with good, fighting against Satan’s wiles with God’s life-giving messages. But how?
First, remember that “what’s in the well comes up in the bucket.” We have to start with our attitudes within—dwell on God’s word, His faithfulness, His power, and His attentiveness to our prayers. Ask His Holy Spirit to change us inside out. He is faithful to hear, and His plans are for our sanctification and good.
Next, even if we are boiling inside with negativity, the discipline of speaking out in positive, selfless ways helps cool off our inner turmoil. Consider the following contrasts in word usage:
- Pause before speaking. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself quickly—“Will what I’m about to say be the truth? Will it build up the other person, or will it only gratify myself?” Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath (James 1:19).
- Focus on words of praise instead of criticism of others, regardless of whether they are friends or public officials. Even the smallest of compliments or an expression of thanks can turn a conversation around.
- Use patient tones of voice instead of angry/anxious rants. When your pitch starts to sharpen, soften it.
- Ask for forgiveness, and forgive others. “I’m sorry” may be the two most important words we can use right now. Even if an apology isn’t appropriate, you can always say, “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
- Dwell on expressions of hope instead of hopelessness. This pandemic will not last forever…it will leave a lot of damage in its wake, but it will not define us or defeat us.
- Look for blessings instead of complaining about inconveniences. If you’re not sick enough to be in the hospital or if you haven’t lost a loved one, count yourself blessed to be alive, even in isolation and financial difficulty. God will help you through this.
Now is the time to bring the good news about Jesus Christ to a dying world, to those who are thirsty for His love, joy, and peace. Our words can offer His healing and hope. If we ask His Holy Spirit to give us opportunities and the words to speak, He will change us as well as others.
Dear Father, only You can truly heal our nation. Please grant us wisdom, prudence, and the necessary sacrifices to halt the spread of coronavirus. At the same time, give us an extra measure of Your Holy Spirit to bring Your healing words to others…make us Your beacons of light to a darkened world. In the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen.
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Copyrighted July 25, 2020, by Nancy Canestrari Williams and Rebecca Henderson