I’m shivering — my flesh has goosebumps. Frost and shiny reflections of ice on my porch take me outside long enough to grab a couple of fallen trees for the fire to warm my skin.
Nestled away in their cozy covers, the family sleeps while I sit in my favorite recliner, one my wife found along the road. We took it down to its solid bones, adding new muscles and a fresh skin.
Snap, crackle, and pop accompany the flames, the only sounds present other than the tapping of little doggy paws on the wooden floor of this old stone Texas ranch house as Tucker, our new 11-year-old rescue, paces awaiting breakfast.
Wrapped in history — an Afghan blanket knitted by my grandmother “Mema” and given to me on my 17th birthday, keeps me warm emotionally and physically. Knowing her delicate and frail hands infused each strand of yarn with her love makes me tear up when I think about how much she is missed and how much she touched my life with important lessons.
Thinking back, there are those who are in our lives, and those who touch our lives. There is a difference. Someone can be in your life for a great length of time and not leave their mark, while a brief encounter with someone else can have a profound effect.
Some impact is premeditated, some is accidental (though I’m convinced there are no real accidents).
Looking through a microscope at my own history, I can point to brief moments where an impact was made by the angels dropped into the winding country road of life. Looking back, I can see moments where someone briefly appeared, dropped off a lesson at the exact right time, then departed.
I can also see times when someone kept putting the same message into my life, over and over until the timing was right for me to hear it. As I say in my Art Marketing Boot Camp, it is repetition that sells products. The same is true for lessons, especially when there are teenagers involved.
When we were kids living at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana, our phone (Kenmore 7463) would ring and Mema would say, “I just wanted you to know that Billy Graham is on TV right now on Channel 15.” She must have done it a hundred times, and though I rolled my eyes because I thought I had better things to do, she never stopped … and I miss those calls today. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the repetition helped me understand the importance of what she was trying to tell me.
At the fire I’m tending, the flames are now reduced to embers and will soon burn out. We all need to fan embers to bring new flames and new passions. It is that repetition of messages that brings out the flames. But sometimes a fire starts with only a brief spark.
These angels may have a specific lesson to give, but mostly they help others discover what is inside of themselves, and help them see things in themselves that they couldn’t see before. These angels offer encouragement, build confidence, and help us become better.
Any Life Left?
Actor Will Smith has a viral video that asks, “Are the people around you contributing to your life, making you feel better about yourself, or are they sucking the life out of you?” He asks, “With whom are you spending your time?”
Rarely do we know the impact of our words, whether they are encouraging, hopeful, sharing ideas — or snuffing out the flames.
Years ago, I was visiting a radio convention and I was stopped by a man I didn’t recognize. He introduced himself, told me that we had worked together very briefly, and that I had said one thing to him in passing that had encouraged him to go out and buy his own radio station. He told me he had never considered it or believed he could do it, but my words of encouragement gave him the confidence, and today he is a station owner with several radio stations. He told me I had changed his life, yet I had not even remembered saying it.
Did you ever say something to someone and then wonder where those words came from? Something just came out of your mouth, unplanned? You just blurted it out?
I’m convinced that we are vessels, placed in circumstances at certain times when angels are needed, and that those words that fall into our brains, unpremeditated, are placed on our lips to help people in need of those words at those times.
It probably sounds crazy. I get that. Yet the more years I’m alive, the more things I experience that I cannot begin to understand, and sometimes I believe we are the angels, or perhaps they are speaking through us.
I also think those words that come to us can be from a positive source — or a negative source. It’s like the little devil on the left shoulder and the angel on the right shoulder. Both enter our heads, and we have to have enough discernment to ask ourselves, “Are my words going to be used for good or evil?”
Sometimes our messengers help us see a bad situation that we would rather not see, rather not face. Yet negative messages, no matter how helpful, are rarely received well. This is where relationships end, especially with those who want to avoid those who snuff out their flames. It’s a delicate balance.
A Painful Letter
Several years ago, I felt the need to write a letter to a family member because I saw things going on that he did not see. They were, in my opinion, so harmful to him, and I loved him so much, that I felt he needed to know, even at the risk of losing my relationship with him, to save him from such deep pain and the coming train wreck. After I hit the send button, I knew there was no turning back. The result was not what I had expected. He did take the action recommended, but he has not spoken to me since, and years have now passed. I miss him terribly, and I’m not convinced it was worth the sacrifice of not having him in my life. Now I wonder if it would have been better for him to face the train wreck and learn the harder lesson on his own, without my pointing it out.
A well-meaning push to help someone avoid pain may seem like a good thing to do, yet pain and adversity are often what others need. Adversity is what results in growth and turning points. I had not considered that, and only hope that time will eventually heal the wounds.
Words can cut like powerful swords and create deep wounds, or they can be be like glowing bricks that build greatness in others.
Which words will you use?
What do you see in others that they do not see in themselves, and how can you help them see it?
I’m convinced more than ever that the only kinds of words that flow from our lips should be words of love and encouragement. Yes, there are times when discipline or correction is needed, and times when someone needs to be pushed off the tracks before the train of adversity crushes them, yet it all has to be done with love and care.
I’ve also discovered that the only words that penetrate the shield of the human brain are positive words, and they sometimes have to be used to help someone discover something in themselves.
Families and relationships only break because of negative words that have come from our lips, negative actions, usually in a moment of deep passion or anger. Those words never leave us and become our story. Though we all should learn the magic of forgiveness, our egos get in our way.
Words linger inside our spirits. Words bounce around inside our heads for a lifetime, and each time they bounce, they either make us feel better or feel worse. Over time the impact of those words reverberating builds us up or tears us down. I carried words that I found hurtful with me for decades, and I did not heal till I shed them and forgave the speaker of those words.
The words “I’m truly deeply sorry that I’ve hurt you, and I beg your forgiveness” can repair decades of hurt, even though they are the hardest words for us to say.
Valentine’s Day Massacre
As I write this, words I’ve spoken that have caused damage come to mind, words where forgiveness is needed. What about you? As you read this, are you realizing words that you’ve spoken that cut down others like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? Are there words where you were cut down, words you allowed to hurt you? Can you forgive and move on, or make a call and try to heal the wound?
Are You Reflecting?
I’ve also realized that certain people have only negative bullets loaded in their verbal arsenal, and no matter how much we crave their love, crave for them to change, they will not. Often avoidance is best, yet sometimes it’s not possible. We cannot change others, only ourselves. Yet you can make a decision right now. Are you going to spend the rest of your life as a reflector or a deflector? When negative arrows are shot at you, do you reflect them and shoot negative arrows back? Do you let those negative arrows penetrate you? Or do you approach them with love, and simply deflect them so they don’t rule your life?
The only arrows we should carry in our quiver should be golden arrows, and when people shoot dark, negative words, we should not pick them up and put them in our own quiver.
Hurt Me, I’ll Hurt You Back
Human nature, our reptilian brain, wants to hurt others when they hurt us. It’s built into our DNA, but to evolve to a higher level, we must resist the urge to return pain. We simply need to tell ourselves that they must really be hurting, must have deep anger because someone hurt them along the way, and pray that they one day evolve to a loving and giving spirit.
It’s so natural. I can have a family member scold me or yell at me and allow it to ruin my day, and push those negative boulders downhill to others, which in turn ruins their day and makes them push the pain along even further. Eventually those boulders will build, and grow, and create damage of epic proportions, impacting hundreds of others.
Crushing Others with Your Bad Day
Or, when I’m wounded, I can stop that boulder, take a few minutes to understand what I might have done to create that anger, and not push that boulder any further. Sometimes I have to take a walk, or go out into the wilderness and let out a primal scream to stop pushing. But if I push it forward, I’m hurting others even though I’m really just trying to heal my own pain.
That’s why our words matter.
Are you pushing along negative boulders that will roll down the mountain and crush others along the way? Or are you pushing out warm sunlight that encourages and warms the soul?
How do people feel when they leave your presence?
Today, let’s practice. After all, small steps lead to big actions. So, ask yourself…
- Who in my life needs to know I believe in them? Who can I encourage?
- Who needs to see something in themselves that I see and they don’t see, something that will help them soar?
- Who have I wounded who needs my sincere apology?
- Who do I need to forgive so I can let go of the negatives inside myself?
- Who shoots only negative arrows? Who do I need to avoid?
- Who is there who shoots negative arrows and I can’t avoid them — but I can decide to return only positive arrows?
- What wounds from the past am I clinging to that I need to let go of, that are getting in the way of my progress?
- Who can I turn to that I know is always encouraging, and how can I spend more time receiving their encouragement?
- Who desperately needs to hear words of encouragement from me?
If you think about what you’re grateful for every day, then think about three people a day you can reach out to and tell them how much you appreciate them, how much they mean to you. Or leave them with some words of encouragement. Your own life will change for the better. Before long the negative clouds will disappear from over your head and you’ll be flooded in warm sunlight.
This week, my plan is to put only positive arrows in my word quiver, even in negative circumstances. My goal is to find a way to deal with those negative circumstances with positive words. It will be harder, but it will make a massive difference in outcomes.
If you’ve read this little Sunday Coffee note this far, I am grateful for your time. I want you to know that I believe in you. Even though we may not know one another, I want you to know that your big, impossible dreams are not impossible, and that giant walls of adversity can be overcome. Even if for some reason they cannot because it’s too late, know that the words you use to change the outlook of others will change your own outlook and make the unbearable more bearable.
Imagine how your life would change if you made just one change in the type of words you use.
PS: If you received this because someone else has sent it to you, I do this every Sunday morning, and it can come to your inbox directly if you subscribe in the sidebar. Mark it as “important.” If ever you cannot find it, it might have ended up in a spam or promotions folder. Simply take it out and mark it as “not spam.” That will help make sure you’re seeing it. I also post it on my Facebook page each week. I hope you’ll follow me there. It’s a good place to see more pictures of our new dog, Tucker, pictures of our insanely crazy life, and a chance to interact a little more. And of course, I welcome your comments below. And I’m always flattered when people pass this along to others because they felt they might enjoy it.