Do Your Words Build Up or Tear Down?

Say What Will Build Another Up

When you talk about controversial things, do your words build up or tear down those whose opinions don’t match your own? Do you feel justified in “ripping a new one” to someone you feel has wronged you? Do you share memes online that are digs at others you feel are stupid, or do you sarcastically comment on Facebook posts or tweets to show how you are right and the other person is wrong? I know I would have to answer yes to at least one of these things. We can justify it as being human nature, though, right?

A few weeks ago, I went to church with my mom when I was up visiting family, and the pastor was talking about stress.

His first point was The Stress of a Compromising Situation and how integrity is so important. The supporting scripture for that source of stress was Proverbs 10:9: “People with integrity have a firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” and Proverbs 23: 17-18: “Don’t envy evil men but continue to reverence the Lord all the time, for surely you have a wonderful future ahead of you.” Integrity is one of the principles that Jonathan and I have as one of the pillars of our business. It is why we also try to never burn bridges, even when the other party has lit their half on fire. You never know when you – or they – will need help.

The second point was The Stress of Conflict. I know I am one of those who hates conflict to the point that it can trigger my anxiety issues. It is worse when it is a family situation, but really, I hate all conflict. The supporting passages for this source of stress were some that I hadn’t read in awhile, but they really spoke to my heart. Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called ‘Sons of God’.” and Proverbs 18:20: “You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say” both apply today, especially when you look at the conversations people are having on social media. The other two passages are the ones that I have thought about regularly over the last month. Phillipians 2:3-6: “Don’t be selfish. Be humble. Don’t think only about your own affairs. Be interested in others too and what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God He did not demand and cling to His rights.”  Wow! Think about that in the context of your online relationships. Then there was the passage that I used in the photo above – but from a different translation. Ephesians 4:29-32: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement. Get rid of all the bitterness and rage and anger and harsh words and slander. Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” What would happen if we all stopped to think about our words, and tried to build each other up or encourage one another instead of tearing each other down to make ourselves look good. I have been trying to put this into practice over the last few weeks, and I can tell you, it makes me feel good when I know I’ve made someone else feel good. It also makes me feel good when I don’t participate in the negative feeding frenzies on Facebook and Twitter. Let me be clear…we don’t have to “go there” when interacting on social media. We don’t have to participate in the ugly to advocate for agriculture. We don’t need to be the one to make the consumer who is asking the question feel stupid, and we certainly don’t need to be calling them uneducated or whatever the latest insult is. We don’t have to go there!

The final point that the pastor had was The Stress of Competition. I don’t know about other agriculture advocates, but I tend to listen to sermons and pull out things as they pertain to advocating, and how to do it in a Christ-like manner. The final point here was another one that correlates so well to the advocating we do. I really appreciated this passage as how it relates to the stress of competition and conversations we have online. Galatians 6:4: “Let everyone be sure to do his very best for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and he won’t need to compare himself with somebody else.” Isn’t it the goal of every farmer and rancher to do their very best? If you do the very best you can on the ground you farm or with the animals you raise, you won’t need to compare yourself with somebody else. We are all unique in how we manage our resources, but we are not unique in the fact that we all are doing our very best in the work we’ve chosen to do. How’s that for a little stress relief?

My challenge to you is, before you hit the share button on a meme, or comment on a thread, take a second to decide if that meme or your words are meant to build up those you are communicating with, or if they are meant to tear them down. My hope is that your words will be an encouragement.



**Thanks for the inspiration, Pastor Rick Krasky of Anoka Covenant Church.

What Does it Mean to Love Our Neighbor?

The Gospel lesson and sermon in church this past Sunday touched on some things that have been running through my mind lately, especially after reading a blog post that was directed at one group of people in particular. The title of that post seemed to serve no other purpose than to belittle the group that they had a difference of opinion with.

The Gospel text was from John 13, where Jesus is instructing his disciples, and gave them a new commandment. Verses 34-35 say, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The sermon went on to explain that this means we are to love our neighbors. Douglas John Hall of Canada’s McGill University states: “It may be good enough, legally and politically, but it is not good enough for the one who did not say, ‘Tolerate your neighbor’, but ‘love your neighbor.”  Uff da! To love someone as Jesus has loved me is not easy.  That would mean an unconditional love. No judging, no scoffing, no name calling…unconditional.

We live in an age where, at any given moment, we are able to communicate with our fellow man – our neighbors – anywhere around the world. How are we supposed to show this love to neighbors we’ve never met in person?  As our speaker, Jason Swenson, mentioned: “Biblical love is not all hearts and flowers, but actions and deeds.”

Actions and deeds… The beauty of living in this cyber age, is the ability to reach out and show our love through our actions, which in most cases, is conveyed through words. Unconditional love through words…hmm.

I did a little searching on the internet for quotes or thoughts about unconditional love, and the power of words. Besides a myriad of Bible verses, I found a ton of quotes by authors, philosophers, statesmen, and religious figures. One of the quotes that stood out to me was by an unknown author who said, “Let people march to their own beat of the drum and feel safe to be real around us. That’s what unconditional love is all about – being an encourager of people’s passions, loves, and dreams, even if you may disagree with them.” Look at the last part of the sentence again…”being an encourager of people’s passions, loves, and dreams, even if you may disagree with them.”

When we write blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, or whatever…are we being encouragers or discouragers. Are we willing to show our love for our neighbor in the words we choose? Another unknown author asked, “If someone were to pay you 10 cents for every kind word you ever spoke and collect from you 5 cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?”

It is so easy for us to hide behind the anonymity of user names on forums, to hide behind our job titles, or educational titles. We feel we can type whatever we want, and it won’t matter because we are right, or we are smarter, or they need to be educated. But those of us who are followers of Jesus, can we really say whatever we want without regard to how our words may affect another person?

I will admit, there are times when I have not shown love towards a neighbor…those are the times when I must ask forgiveness for my thoughts, and my words spoken in anger. It took being called out by my daughter, Laura, in a college paper to make me really look at how the words coming out of my head affect other people. That’s when you realize how true Psalm 16:24 is: “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Loving our neighbors does not mean that we all have to think the same thing, shop at the same store, or belong to the same political party. We can have lively discussions, and still show love. We can disagree about how to manage our businesses, and still show love.  The key is in our actions and our words. Weigh your words carefully before you post something online. Leave out the inflammatory adjectives that are there mostly for spite. Ask yourself, am I building up the people around me, or am I tearing them down?

Ephesians 4:29 “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”