Words are powerful. Many people, if they take time, can think of wise words from a teacher, parent, or friend that made a great impact on their life. Many people can spotlight an encouraging word that lifted them at a very low time. Many people can also remember some searing sentence, the memory of which brings blushing shame even today, years later.

My mother was a great knitter. She never went to meetings without her ball of yarn and a sweater-in-progress. At home she was forever holding up sections of a new work against my arms or chest or back, to see whether they would fit. Unfortunately, not all of her sweaters were triumphs. Often the size or shape or color was decidedly odd.

I do remember one outstanding creation, however. When I was in the seventh grade, she gave me for Christmas a bright red, cable-knit sweater, very distinctive and attractive. I proudly wore it to school, where a boy noticed it and looked it over critically.

"It looks like a girl's sweater," he said.

I never wore the sweater out of the house again.

Our words matter. The Book of Genesis portrays God creating the world by speaking. In a related way, we create the world we live in through our words. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we pay attention to our words—both those we intend and those that slip out when we are not paying attention. And we also need to be conscious of how we deliver the words we use. No matter how encouraging the actual words are, they will lose their positive values if accompanied by an uninterested voice or lack of eye contact. The way we talk to each other can build a world full of love and security, or a world of bitterness and anxiety.

Take a married couple. The man does not talk. To compensate, his wife ...

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