Act 17: Sticks and Stones

Ever caught yourself saying something that sounded nothing like you? Then stood shocked as you thought, ‘Did I really say that?’ We get over-familiar with our words, and sometimes miss the impact they have on people. So, we’re doing a review. What words do you find yourself using more than you realise? How can you flip the vocabulary table over to generosity?

Choose how you’ll complete today’s act:
Green:
Write some sincere, kind Post-its to put around the workplace or at home. Or, write one to someone specific, with words and compliments that mean something and show them they matter.  

Amber:
  Set a target to encourage everyone you talk with today. Everyone. This might actually be easier than you think – if you just choose to prioritise encouraging words whenever you speak to others, it will come naturally. 

Red:
Take a difficult check on your own language. Look for moments where your words or tone aren’t generous. Ask those around you, or your 40acts buddy, to review how you speak, encouraging them to be completely honest.

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“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
(James 3:9–10 NIV)

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Your thought for today:

There’s a lady called Janice who has had a huge impact on me in a way she has probably never realised. I never heard her utter a bad word about someone. I’ve never heard gossip or cruelty cross her lips. In fact, when others spoke ungenerously about a person, Janice would still be able to turn the conversation in a way that highlighted the value, strengths or a positive aspect of their character. She has always been able to speak hope and positivity in a way that refreshes anyone with whom she speaks. Janice models generous speech.

I remember asking her if this was something that came naturally. I was surprised by her response. She told me ‘no’. It had been an active choice which had grown more natural over years of practice. One day she had made a decision to try and only speak generously at all times. As well as the words coming more naturally and authentically with prolonged use, her life shines the same generosity towards others that her words model.

James 3 talks about taming your tongue. I’ve just written a children’s adventure novel that weaves the wisdom of James into a fantasy story. In it, the main characters meet a dragon (spoiler alert!) whose tongue burns, setting her words on fire.

In the story, it takes the help of others to tame her tongue. Who can help us to retrain ourselves towards generous speech? For the dragon, it also takes ongoing vigilance and action to maintain control. Like Janice, actively choosing to be a speaker whose words build up others isn’t a one-off decision – it’s a lifelong journey but one we can start today.


Written by Luke Aylen
Luke is the Creative Coordinator for Essential Christian. He looks after the creative programme and teams for Spring Harvest, and the production of the primary school collective worship resource Big Start Assemblies. He is a filmmaker, speaker and author and has just released his debut older-children’s novel, The Mirror and the Mountain.


Watch Gracie’s 40acts story as inspiration for today’s challenge!
How could you use your words for encouragement?