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Andy Stanley - Way More

Andy Stanley - Way More
TOPICS: The Weight of Your Words

Today I am beginning a brand new series, a three-series entitled "The Weight of Your Words," "The Weight of Your Words". We've all been told, or we've all heard that actions speak louder than words. And when it comes to first-time acquaintances or for those neighbors that first move in, that's probably true, you gotta watch what they do, 'cause anybody can say whatever they need to say to get in good with you. So actions do speak louder than words. But when it comes to our more intimate relationships, family relationships, the people that we would consider our best friends or our inner circle, the words and actions, I don't know that they speak louder. I mean, it's tough. I mean, it's like they're right there, neck and neck with each other, because words are so powerful.

The more intimate the relationship, the louder, or perhaps to the point of this series, the weightier those words become. The greater their capacity, their words to leave a mark for good or for bad, to build, destroy, encourage, discourage, inspire, or actually wound. Words in those relationships are powerful. And to underscore just how powerful words are in those closer relationships, even, this is amazing to me. Even words left unsaid, unsaid words. This is amazing. Unsaid words, unsaid phrases have the potential to impact the trajectory of a person's life.

Now, you may have had a different experience than me, but I've never had anyone quote to me what a neighbor or a coworker never said. But I've had dozens of students, college students, and single adults, married adults, even in some cases, senior adults, quote back to me or say back to me, sometimes in tears, a phrase they never heard their father say. A phrase that they would've given anything to hear their father say. "I love you". "I'm proud of you". And if that elicits emotion in you, whether that was your experience or not, this underscores the power of words, because even unspoken words have the potential to impact the trajectory of a person's life. Nothing underscores the significance, I don't think, of the words we choose more than the fact that unspoken words have that much or can have that much impact on the trajectory of a life. The point simply being that words carry weight.

Don't raise your hand, but have you ever been crushed by someone's words? Let's all go back to high school for just a minute. "Let's just be friends". It's like, "No, I don't wanna be your friend". "No, no, no, but I've always thought of you as more of a brother". "A brother? I've always thought of you more as a sister". "I don't wanna be your sister, okay? I wanna kiss you, okay"? I, I, I, you know, remember that? It's like, it's like, and they were kind of letting you down slow and you were crushed. And they kind of emotionally, it's like they patted you on the head and walked down the hall and you're a mess. And they're thinking everything's fine and you just need to check out, right? It's like you're gonna just skip class or call or just walk home, because it was just over, really, right?

Lives, again, lives have been shaped by words spoken, but lives have been shaped, in fact, our lives have been shaped by words spoken to us, over us, at us, about us. They've shaped our childhood, maybe shaped or misshaped your marriage, undermined a marriage, built or rebuilt a marriage. They impact, you know, our confidence, the words spoken to us, at us, over us have actually impacted or determined to some extent who we see in the mirror. But here's the thing, and here's where we take kind of a hard right turn. Nobody would argue with that, right? I mean, we're all quick to recognize the power that other people's words have had over us and on our lives.

But we're often slow to recognize, or, and I think this is part of the problem, we're often slow to admit the fact that our words have equal power in the lives of other people. I mean, because, you know, we've been impacted by other people's words. But when it comes to you, it's like, no, this is just me. I'm just me. These are just words. I mean, my words are just words. They're all equally weighted. They don't even weigh that much. And nothing could be further from the truth. And consequently, we use our words irresponsibly, not on purpose, but because we just don't understand or realize or recognize or embrace the fact that words carry weight and your words carry weight and more weight than you may think in specific relationships.

And the fact that words have the potential to destroy as well as build and you know, undermine as well as inspire, that should impact all of us. And all of us should take that into consideration. But there's a group of us that must take it into consideration. I mean, this is good advice for everybody. This isn't like a religious idea or you know, some sort of Christian insight. We all know that we've been impacted by the words of other people and we all probably recognize that we should be good stewards and careful with our words. But if you're a Christian, if you're a Jesus follower, this is not optional. This isn't, you know, this isn't the second tier. This is first-tier stuff. So here's what we're gonna do. In this series, I'm gonna highlight three, or unpack rather, three dynamics that are at play every time you have a conversation with someone who's important to you.

Every time you have a conversation with someone who's important to you, these three dynamics are at play, whether you recognize them or not. Family, friends, even to some extent coworkers or employees. Three dynamics that determine what people hear, regardless of what we say. Three dynamics that determine what people hear regardless of what we actually say. And we have all been on the receiving end of all three of these, which means it should be easy for us to keep them front and center when we're talking to other people, but in fact we don't. So today we're gonna unpack the first one, but before we do, I want to give you a little bit of incentive. Because again, if you're a Christian or a Jesus follower, this isn't optional. This is part of what it means to follow Jesus. It is baked into the equation.

So in his letter to first century Christians living in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul reminds them of something we talk about all the time. He reminds his audience in this letter of Jesus first, you know, his new command marching orders, his new command that was supposed to direct all the behavior and all the thought patterns and all the speech patterns of Christians. This whole idea to that we are to love other people the way that God through Christ has loved us. The way we say it here, if you're new with us, is we say, we should always ask the question, what does love require of me? What does love require of me? When you're not sure what to say or do, ask what love requires of you. What does love require of me? And not just any kind of love, but a very narrowly defined and illustrated and modeled-for-us love that we see through the Lord Jesus.

So here's the Apostle Paul's words. This is his way of saying what I tried to say. Here's what he writes. He says, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children". And then the music changes, violins. "And walk in the way of love". And walk in the way of love. I mean, this just seems so gentle and so soft and so Christian-esque, so romantic, right? So passive, but it's not at all. This, the way of love, and if you follow Jesus through the Gospels, it becomes evident. The way of love is bold, it's intentional, sometimes it's offensive, it's always sacrificial. It always has the other person in mind, the person on the other side of you. The way of love is attention-getting. In the first century, it is what stopped people in the Roman empire and asked, what is up with these Christians? Why are they doing what they're doing? What is so different about them?

The way of love is dynamic. The way of love impacts people. The way of love is illustrated by Jesus and is illustrated and lived out by the first-century believers, literally changed the world. This is why I come back to this over and over and over with us. Remember this, we get to choose, or you get to choose whether or not you follow Jesus. We get to choose whether or not we choose to follow Jesus. We do not get to choose. We do not get to choose what it looks like, reacts like, or sounds like. That has been prescribed to us. We don't get to define love in the way of love, the way we wanna define it, because it is already defined for us. Jesus prescribed it and he modeled it for us. So here's Paul's words. He says, "Walk in the way of love, just as," in other words, we don't get to make it up. We don't get to define it for ourselves.

"Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us". This is this New Covenant command. You are to love one another the way I have loved you. And when he said that to them, you know this, the next day he put on a demonstration of love. That took his breath away, took his life away, took your sin away. That's the dynamic, that's the power, that's the thing that launched the movement that ultimately would change the world. And he says, let me define it for you, "Just as Christ loved us," and here's what it looks like, this love, "And gave himself up for us". If you wanna know what the way of love looks like, acts like, and sounds like, again, you just follow Jesus through the Gospels. And it's there over and over and over.

So what the Apostle Paul does now is he takes this idea, sort of this overarching idea, and he applies it specifically to the words we choose and the words we use. This is what the way of love sounds like. This is what the Jesus way sounds like. Here's what he says. And maybe you are familiar with this passage. We've talked about it before, a few years ago. And this is something that my parents had us, my sister and I, memorize when we were kids, which was a good idea. Here's what he says. He says, "Do not," this is Paul again. "Do not let any unwholesome word," and unwholesome in the first century basically meant stinky, distasteful. It was used of rotting fish. Don't let any stinky, distasteful, offensive word, "Don't let any unwholesome word come out of your mouths". In other words, he says, "I want you to view your mouth as a gate. And when stinky and hateful and offensive words storm the gate and rush the gate, don't let 'em through. You're the gatekeeper. Don't let 'em through".

And now we could, you know, if I hadn't studied so hard for today and prepared so hard, we could just stop the sermon right here. Don't get any ideas, okay? We could just stop right here and say go home and work on that. And if you went home and worked on that, there would be some people, the people close to you would be so glad you're working on it. They're so glad you're hearing this. In fact, you're listening 'cause somebody sent this to you later. It's like, "Hey, I just ran across this thing. I think you should listen to it two or three times," right? Because you're, because come on, we all struggle with this, because your mouth is a gate and you're not a very good gatekeeper. And I know how you excuse this. I mean, we're all the same. We all use the same excuses.

Well, I was just being honest. I was just being honest. Let me just, this a little, this has nothing to do with sermon. Little sidebar comment on honesty. Honesty is saying what is true. Honesty is making sure that what you say is true. Honesty is not saying everything that's true. It's a big difference. Honesty is making sure that what you say is true, but honesty is not saying everything that is true. If you say everything that is true, you will have no friends. If you just go around making observations out loud, you will have no friends. You will have no job. You will have no life. So honesty is not just walking around saying everything. So when you hear yourself excusing your distasteful words, "Well, I was just being honest". You just remember, you weren't being honest, you were being a jerk, okay? So, it's different.

So that's the point. So we could stop there, and if we did, you know, somebody would be glad we did, but we're not gonna stop there. That's the negative, that's the negative. Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth. And then he turns the page and says, "Let me give you the way forward". "But only," "But only," This is so important. "But only". Now, if you're not a Christian, not a Jesus follower, all this is optional. I don't have any authority. I don't have any business telling you how to live your life. I get that. So if you're like, who are you? I'm nobody, I'm just. But if you're a Christian, if you're a Jesus follower, "But only," means, but only as in the only ones, He's saying, but only, in other words, be selective. When you think about the words that come out of your mouth, be selective. Clear plastic purses only, and no backpacks, okay? We're not letting you sneak anything out of here. "But only words," this is amazing, "that are good for building others up according to their needs".

Now again, when you just read that, you think that's so soft, that's so unproductive. Can you raise children that way? Can you do performance reviews at work that way? Hey, would you mind coming to work occasionally? I don't wanna be too hard on you. And maybe showing up on time, and turning. Can you be a teacher and grade? I mean, can you do, do this? And the answer is yes, because this is important. Paul's point was not "Be nice". His point is this, use your words to build others up. That's the point. Your words should build others up. Words are like building material. And when you leave the construction site. That is, when you leave the conversation, the positive conversation, the not-so-positive conversation, the things that you should say more of, and you finally start saying more of, and the things that you don't wanna say because it hurts feelings, but they need to be said.

Whenever you leave the construction site, Paul says, the person on the other side of you should be built up. They should be better for it. But, and this is where it starts to break down for me, to be honest. But in order for that to happen, for my words to build you, for my words to ensure that the person on the other side of me is built up by my words, it means I have to be a student. It means I have to pay attention to that person. It means I have to understand that person. It means I have to play into what I understand about that person. And that takes patience, that takes work, that takes, as James said, "Be quick to listen and slow to speak". Because Paul says the goal is to choose words and to tailor words, look at this, "to their needs".

Now again, this is where I struggle, and I'll tell you why. And maybe it's just me, but I'm just gonna confess this on the screen. I'm confident that what they need to hear is what I need to say. I mean, I just feel like because I have so much energy around what I need to say, that must be what they need to hear. And this is when I always have to apologize, especially as a parent. I mean, how many times as a parent, you can relate to this. You go upstairs, or you go to your child's room, and you say what needs to be said, and then 20 minutes later you're up there apologizing, and you're like, "Why am I apologizing? I said," because you didn't say what they needed to hear the way they needed to hear it. You said what you needed to say the way you needed to say it. Paul's going, "Come on, grow up, be mature. Guard that mouth. Put a gatekeeper on that mouth".

You need to make sure that whatever comes out, it builds them up according to what they need. And the reason I'm confident that they need to hear what I have to say is because I feel so much better after I've said it, just being honest, right? I don't understand why they don't feel better. The truth is, and I'm judging you a little bit, but I'm judging myself as well. Most of us, maybe you're the exception, most of us are more dialed into what we need to say than what others need to hear. Sometimes we hesitate, and if we're honest, sometimes we hesitate to say what they need to hear. Sometimes we hesitate to say what they need to hear because it's uncomfortable for us. And all of a sudden it's about us again. Sometimes we're uncomfortable saying what needs to be said because we don't wanna alienate them because we'll miss them.

And again, it's back to us. Or we fear their rejection, and all of a sudden it's back to us. And before long, we're back to tailoring our words to what suits us and our need in the moment. I select my words with me in mind. This is why, listen, listen, listen. This is why this is baked into following Jesus. Because Christianity is an others-first life orientation. Christianity is an others-first life orientation, which means everything about my life. And again, it is so easy to stand up here and say this with a microphone, okay? But whether it's easy for me or not, or whether I do it well or not all the time, the truth is Christianity is an others-first orientation, which means I have to choose my words with the needs of other people over my needs to say things, and what I want to hear me say, and what I wanna walk away thinking, "Oh, well I finally told them". And before long, if we're not careful, it's all about us, it's all about me, it's all about you.

I select my words with me in mind. I say what's most helpful to me according to my needs, which is fine, if I care more about me than I care about you, which is fine, if you care more about you than you care about the person on the other side of you. And this is where Jesus just levels the playing field, because he never made it about him. And then he says, follow me. He always made it about others. And then he says, follow me. I know I quote this verse all the time, but it's a life verse me for, he says, "For even the son of man," talking about himself, "For even the son of man," I mean the most important person on planet Earth, the most important person that'll ever walk on planet Earth. Even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve.

Here's that word again, and give his life, a ransom for many. And then he says to you and he says to me, that's how I want you to parent. That's how I want you to employ. That's how I want you to boss. That's how I want you to manage. That's how I want you to neighbor. That's how I want you to fiance. That's how I want you to romance. That's how I want you to love. And here's what we all know, Christian or not, religious or not, you like it when other people do that for you, don't you? In fact, you do that the right way for the right person, they will fall in love with you. Because when I know that I'm being heard and I'm understood, and when people are saying to me what I need to hear, even the hard stuff or even the stuff that's not so hard, but I feel like, "Wow, they really have my best interest in mind".

I, we just, we lean in. As many of us leaned into the words of our heavenly Father spoken through the Gospels and through the Apostles. That's why we began to love our heavenly Father and trust him. Paul concludes, he says this, "But only words that are good for building others up according to their needs, that," and now he gives us the finish line, the win, the purpose, or the result. Here it is, that, here's the end. Here's how you know if you did it right. Here's how I know if I did it right. "That it may benefit those who listen". In other words, our words should be beneficial. Whether they are received as beneficial or not, they should be beneficial. Either immediately it's recognized or later she comes back around or he comes back around and says, "Okay, I was so mad at you when you told me that, but I realize now that was hard for you to say and you said it anyway, and thank you". It leaves the other person better off, built up. And that way our words should be a gift.

Now, as you know, there's a right way to say hard things, and we all need to hear hard things. We all need at times to say hard things. But here's the thing, and we're gonna move on. People know, come on because, and you know people know 'cause you know, people know when we're saying hard things with us in mind or them in mind. People know when we're saying hard things for our benefit or for their benefit, which means when it comes to the words we choose, intent. Intent is as important as content. Because it is difficult to receive difficult words if we don't trust the other person's intention. It is difficult to receive negative words or words we don't want to hear if we suspect someone's intent. But when we know they really have our best interest in mind, we can receive them.

And the same is true for you. When you've been able to communicate to the person on the other side of you, I really have your best interest in mind, and they are sure of that, of course they're receptive. And as Jesus followers, because we have been called to be in one another's lives and to encourage one another daily, it's so important for us to get this right. So, in review, do not let any unwholesome word come out of your mouths, only such words are good for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen. That's what following Jesus sounds like. Which brings me finally to the first of these three dynamics we're gonna talk about in this series, that play into every conversation with the people who are closest to us.

Three things that we should take into consideration, because we want other people to take them into consideration when they're talking to us, but oftentimes they don't. And consequently, because we've not focused on them, because we've not put words around them, oftentimes we don't either. So here's number one. Number one, words are not equally weighted. Words are not equally weighted. Nobody's gonna write down what I'm about to say next, because we all know this, but for some reason we forget it. Negative words weigh way more than positive words. Let's just say this out loud together, ready? All of us, all the campuses, if you're watching online, negative words weigh... One more time, I want us to emphasize way, okay. Negative words weigh way more than positive words. Right.

Now, depending on the study you look at, and then all kind of studies have been done on this, the experts tell us that you need five to nine positives to counterbalance one negative. But most of these surveys were done in marketplace relationships. My theory, I have no science to back this up, my theory is in marriage, with your kids, with your parents, with your brother, your sister, your best friend, it's not nine to five, it's probably 25 or 30 to one positive, to counterbalance one negative, right? I mean, think of it this way. Growing up, you don't remember much of anything, you don't remember much of anything you said to your parents. But there are some things your parents said to you that you will never forget. And the ones that you'll never forget are mostly negative things, right? I mean, the conversation that began with, "Son, never forget". That's the only part of what they said that you remember, "Son, never forget". And you don't remember anything that followed, right?

But the negatives, the critical, cynical, the comparison, those arrows stuck. They were barbed. They created wounds that maybe followed you for the rest of your life. Every time you look in the mirror, you see that thing your mom or dad said about you or your sister said about you. Nobody else notices this, but it's all you can notice, because they just said it so many times, because words aren't equally weighted, but words weigh a lot. When I was 16, I wanted to look like Peter Frampton. And when I was 16, I actually had the hair to pull this off, but it meant not cutting it off, right? And my mom loved it. In fact, to her dying day, I mean, she died a few years ago, and she would say, and she would look at me, and she would put her hands and fingers in my hair, and she'd go, "Where are all those curls? Where are all those curls"? I'm like, "They're". Mom said, "You need to grow your hair". I'm like, "I don't think so".

But anyway, so she loved it. She loved it. And you know, here's a picture. So here I am, yeah. Now I know what you're saying, so I'm gonna say it for you. You don't know who Peter Frampton is, but you know who Napoleon Dynamite is. And when I watched Napoleon Dynamite with my kids all those years ago, I thought, "I don't know what you're laughing about. That's like my life story". Even the bicycle thing with the ramp, let's don't go there. Anyway, it was just so my life. So anyway, my mom, she just thought it was so, so pretty. We can, yeah, we move on. So, so pretty. But my dad, my dad, he did not like it. He would tell me, he said, "It makes you look like a girl". You're laughing at that? I thought I would get like a sympathy moan, okay? Wow, tough crowd. I know some of you watching online, you were like, "Oh, that's terrible that your dad would say this".

So let me tell you about an incident. You all have these, I'm just sharing mine, okay? And don't share this outside the room. So I'm standing in the little foyer of our little house in Tucker. I was 16 years old, and I'd just gotten back from getting a haircut where I got it cut short-ish, you know? And my dad walks up to me. I mean, I remember where I was standing, he said, and I quote, "Now you look like my son". You are, don't laugh at that. That is a not the laugh line. I know, he looked at me, now you look like my son. And I still remember what I thought in that moment. I thought, "Whose son did I look like an hour ago"? And how did I respond to those words that today I still remember them? I followed in my father's footsteps and worked for him for 12 years, because those weren't the only words he said. But I will never forget those, because negatives weigh more than positives.

You know that because you carry some of those wounds. But the point is, your words have the same potential to wound and you're just talking, talking, talking, talking. For you, all my words weigh four pounds. All my words weigh four pounds. And then some of your words weigh 104 pounds. And you don't even know. You just keep going, we just keep going. And this isn't so important with people out there in the outer world, but the people who are in our inner circle, it's huge. And we are responsible for the damage we do with our words. And we are responsible for the stewardship we have with our words when it comes to impacting the people around us in such a way that they walk away feeling like I was at a construction site and I'm built up and I'm better. And she is so dialed into, he is so dialed into my needs, that it's like he or she chose the words that I needed and I liked them, or I didn't like them, but I know that I needed them.

That's what we're called to. But we're all gonna slip up. No way to get this right. The only way not to slip up is to die early. And I don't recommend that. So it's imperative that we load up, come on, that we load up on the positive and constructive, the positive and the constructive. Now, real quick, if you're a manager or you have employees that report to you, maybe you run a franchise or maybe you run the company. If you're a parent or a grandparent, listen, this is so important, the positive-to-negative ratio, and loading up on the positive and way overdoing the positive. That's what ensures, that's what ensures that constructive criticism has its intended result. That what you wanted to be received is received. What you want it acted on is actually acted on it. It's what ensures that negative comments have positive change, or result in positive change.

Now, here's where this lands with some of you. I'm gonna press that in a little hard. Dads, if you're a man of few words, I have a feeling, if you're a man of few words, the negatives come more easily than the positives. That's just kind of how it goes. You don't say a lot of positive things, like you don't, you're just not that verbal. But I mean, if something goes wrong, I mean, you're just, you're on it, and in your mind, "Hey, I'm just telling you the truth. I'm just being honest".

So look up here. If you want your correction, and I'm not trying to be cute with the rhyme, it just happens to rhyme. If you want your correction to impact your children's direction, you've got to adjust your ratio. You don't quit saying the hard things, you don't quit correcting. But it has got, you've got to balance. And it's not one-to-one, or five-to-one, or 10-to-one. With a dad? Maybe it's 50-to-one. I mean, look, you know, you're familiar with the idea of portion control, right? Well, this is proportion control, and both require self-control. Sarcasm will not make your children tougher. Sarcasm will make it tougher for you to connect with your adult kids. I promise you. Eradicate it. It doesn't accomplish anything. And load up on the positives, even if it's uncomfortable. Look up here, even if it's uncomfortable, because it's not about you. You're a Christian, and you're a parent, you're a grandparent. It's about him. It's about her. It makes it tough to connect with our children if we don't get the ratio right.

Bottom line, words, they're not equally weighted. Words are not equally weighted. Negatives weigh way more. Negatives are necessary, but they bounce and they wound if they aren't the exception. We've been told, I mean, you've heard this, right? We've been told that it's possible to have too much of a good thing. You've heard that before. It's possible to have too much of a good thing. When I hear that, nothing ever comes to mind. Like, "Huh, can't think of anything that's too, you know, of a good thing, right"? And that may be true in some areas, but it is not true when it comes to our words. It is certainly not the case when it comes to our words. I'm no professional counselor, but I feel like I can say this with confidence. No one traces the root of their problems back to too much encouragement. You cannot overdose a person in encouragement as long as you're actually being sincere.

And I just wanna encourage all of you, whether it's at work or home, the neighborhood, let's overdose a little bit more on constructive and encouragement. Because in order to pave the way to say the hard things, in order to pave the way to say the things that are somewhat negative, even hurtful, or in some cases offensive, in order to be in a position, look up here, in order to be in a position where you can actually love someone with your words, you pave the way by paving the way with encouraging, positive, constructive, sincere words.

And for some of you, you are so wired for this, you're listening to this going, "Well, yeah, doesn't everybody"? No, not everybody. And it's so easy for you that it's easy to judge some of the rest of us. I get that, good for you. Keep going and model it for us. But for some of us, for many of us, because we didn't grow up with it, because we haven't received much of it, there's a tendency to hold back. And again, if you're more concerned about you than the person on the other side of you, that's up to you. But if you're a Christian, if you're a Jesus follower, this is part of the equation.

So between now and next time, here's a couple of questions to think about. Where do you have work to do? And who hopes you'll get to work soon? Where do you have work to do? And who hopes you'll get to work soon? Who hopes this isn't just another sermon that's in one ear and out the other, who's hoping that you're really listening and digesting this today? Do not, Christians, do not let any unwholesome word proceed from your mouths, but only words that are good for building others up according to their needs. Or as one translation says, "According to the need," I love this phrase, "According to the need of the moment, that it might benefit those who hear". That it might benefit those on the other side of you. This is what it sounds like to follow Jesus. And we will pick it up right there next time in part two of "The Weight of Your Words".
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