What’s the big deal about our words?

On a recent 7,800-mile road trip to Alaska that involved a horde of driving hours, Dan and I engaged in several conversations.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

We discussed specific chapters of a book I was reading at the time. We reflected on God’s amazing creation in those Far North places—salmon swimming upstream, moose munching, bears fishing.

And we reminisced and marveled over our love story and how God brought us together.

Yes, there were driving hours without conversation—time to read and write and play Sudoku. But all the remembrances and the reflective words and the affirmations warmed my heart.

There’s an ancient proverb that goes like this:

The tongue has the power of death and life, and those who love it [the tongue and its use for good or evil] will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21, NIV

Words are powerful. We have the capacity to speak death and discouragement, or life and hope to the people around us.

With that in mind, here are 6 life-giving sentences, and I bet you can think of more:

1. I like you!

From time to time, Dan says, “I like you!” … and it always makes my heart smile. It’s reassuring to know that not only does he love me, but he also enjoys exploring and going places and spending time with me.

2. You’re really good at (fill in the blank).

You’re really good at listening, building things, growing stuff, putting on bandages, cooking delicious food, handling finances, teaching, taking care of littles. The list of things people are really good at is endless.

Dan is great at mapping out road trips. He’s in charge while I rest comfortably in the passenger’s seat without a doubt that he knows where we’re going.

Why not speak life to your people by telling them what they’re good at?

3. I love the life we share.

This quote by an author unknown says it all for me:

All love stories are beautiful, but ours is my favorite.

Author Unknown

When was the last time you told someone how much you delight in doing life with them—your spouse, a child, your sister?

4. You’re my hero.

A hero doesn’t necessarily wear a cape. But a hero shows up at the right time and the right place. And when the excitement has died down and the trauma has passed, whoever is still there is a real-life hero. Tell them.

5. I don’t know what to say, but I’m here.

Instead of walking away from someone’s pain, walk toward them. And instead of trying to figure out what to say—because most of us are baffled at the right words for someone’s pain—tell them you don’t know what to say, and let them know you’re available. Listen well and whisper prayers to God on their behalf.

6. This did not catch God by surprise.

Back in the days when a late-stage cancer diagnosis landed on top of a stack of setbacks, I said to my first husband, “This did not catch God by surprise.”

I don’t know where those words came from. At the time, I’d never heard anyone else say them. But they launched from my mouth with confidence in the middle of devastating news. And they put everything in perspective.

Because, of course, God was not asleep when cancer metastasized. He wasn’t busy elsewhere when your husband walked out, when you lost your job, when your child chose a lifestyle that breaks your heart.

Which means there’s purpose. Even in this. Even if we’ll never, ever understand why.

So, what’s the big deal about our words? 

Like the old-timer who said about his wife: “I told her once that I loved her. If I ever change my mind, I’ll let her know.”

Once is enough, right?

Um … no. Once isn’t enough.

Because we all long to know—over and over—that the people who matter to us think we’re heroic, worth pursuing, irreplaceable.

You remember all those Alaskan road-trip miles of conversation and affirming words? They’re recorded in my brain because they’re that significant to me. Because words are powerful.

Do you have a hero in your space? Someone who needs an encouraging word? Someone you love doing life with?

What’s keeping you from telling them today?


Why you should tell your story


What if we risked delight?


  1. Allison

    Marlys, thank you for this beautiful reminder that our words matter. I loved your practical life-giving sentences, so good for the receiver and the giver.

    Thank you for your obedience to write words that matter and encourage.

  2. Marcia Huntley

    Thank you, Marlys. Al thought he had read these words of yours, but as I read them aloud his face showed he hadn’t. So sound. I’ll print them from here if I can figure out how. Or I’ll just write them.
    After that gripping film, to see the actual people pop up right in front of us!!!

    • Marcia, I’ve seen the “Space, Hope and Charity” film 4 times (this was our first viewing on the big screen), and I’m amazed at Charity’s story. Every time. I’m so glad you and Al could see it.

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