Since writing today's devotional, "Choose Words of Peace," two years ago, I've had many opportunities to consider how much our words matter. This year marked occasions of great joy—my husband and I celebrated our 50th anniversary with a European river cruise, followed by a family reunion on the California coast for our son's wedding. Still, the stresses of life threaten our peace.
We are trying to sell our forest home in California so that we can live a more manageable life in Arizona. No buyers. Fortunately, peace is a renewable source of energy. Instead of fretting, I've tried to practice the behaviors I learned from the businessman who so impressed me with his words of peace.
I’ve learned that when we feel powerless to change our own situations or make a difference in other people's lives, simple actions can make a difference. I'm trying to be less irritable and more aware of the needs of those around me. That means looking up, making eye contact, and dispensing with hasty judgments. The harried checker behind the counter? The frazzled mom who's wrestling with a misbehaving toddler? The impatient man in the slow-moving line? God sees their situations and knows their hearts. I don't. It only takes a minute to brighten someone's day. The following are some things that have helped me.
Engage respectfully. After you've noticed a person who might need encouragement, consider ways to help relieve the anxiety of the moment. Let the store clerk know you aren't in a rush. Give the frazzled mom of the screaming toddler your best "been there" smile. Sympathize with the complainer's frustration.
Pray. Simple prayers work miracles. God, give me words. If God doesn't seem to give you words, pray for the people you have noticed. If God does give you words, speak those words of peace and comfort.
Respond with love. Don't be simply nice, be kind. Niceness is a polite response that often keeps people at a distance. Kindness considers a person's situation and offers heartfelt concern or appreciation. Gentle humor, commiseration, or a sincere compliment can redirect someone who as fallen into a bad frame of mind.
In a world that is seemingly so connected, many people go unnoticed. A listening ear can relieve loneliness. Words of peace can soften hearts, change moods, and restore faith. In Colossians 4:6, the Apostle Paul urges, "Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone" (NLT). Pair Paul's words with the exhortation in James 3:18 to plant seeds of peace, and you have the means to brighten someone's day and lift your own spirits in the process.