"Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me"
True or false?
A couple days ago I was challenged in my meditation on humility to give up the comparison game. By the comparison game I mean trying to measure up against others as a source of building up my own ego and pride. It's a work in process.
One way to do this is to look for the grace of God in others. This spurred some thinking on how those of us who work with students should use our words to encourage and build them up.
Many students are used to hearing statements that communicate what's wrong with them. "You're not good enough", or "you'll never amount to anything", "why did you screw up again", are statements they hear often.
What if we as youth workers made it our mission to find the good in them? Students are image bearers. They're created in the image of God. Even if they're not followers of Jesus yet there are still nuances of their life we can discover and brag about.
Here's an example. Scobi is a kid who just recently became a Christian. Of course there was behavior we weren't thrilled about, but Scobi was a servant, even before he knew Jesus. If we or the children's ministry needed anything, Scobi was there to help. Those kinds of things were constantly pointed out to Scobi in a desire to encourage him and show him that he is created in the image of God and is designed to live in relationship with him. Do you have students you can catch doing something good?
As you think about how to encourage and edify students, here are some thoughts...
* Be a truth teller.
As you know students can sniff out insincerity. When you compliment a student make sure it flows out of a heart of authenticity.
* Be specific.
"Hey, I really like you", or "I think you're cool", isn't as powerful as, "do you know what I love about you? You're a really good friend to those around you" Or "the other night when I saw you hang out with that girl who was alone, that was really cool".
* Be intentional.
Many times I'm quick to see the bad. When I focus on the negative I miss the good in someone. By God's grace I hope to grow in this area of catching students doing something good. I have to be purposeful and intentional about this until it becomes second nature.
* Be public.
If it's appropriate, share your compliment when others are around. It models a heart of encouragement.
The words we use can result in life or death. May we use our words to breathe life into the hearts of students who have only heard the language of death. Remember, words mean something and the statement "words will never hurt me" is a lie from you know where.