We are all builders. All of us, regardless of socio-economic status, worldview, or ethnicity, are actively building one thing – our lives.
Some of us are building upon a life that was handed to us. While others have scrapped the blueprint of those who raised or influenced us, and have instead chosen to build an entirely different life for ourselves. Either way, whichever grouping you feel you belong to is besides the point- what matters is the fact that you’re building.
Now for this particular post I won’t focus my attention much on the “foundation” that we’re building upon, as much as the materials that were building with. More specifically, I want to talk about sticks and stones.
Sticks and Stones
We all have sticks and stones at our constant disposal. Our actions can either be sticks or stones. Our outlooks can either be sticks or stones. And our words (believe it or not) can also either be sticks or stones.
The focal point of this post is our words.
Our words have building power. Negative ones, positive ones, it doesn’t matter. All words build. The only difference lies in the fact that some words are sticks, while others are stones.
Words that are sticks pile up. They offer no reinforcement. They cannot support weight. They pose a risk to those standing on them.
Words that are stones build up. They fortify. They add support. They elevate.
Negative vs. Positive
Have you ever been around a negative person? You know, the kind who ALWAYS seems to have something going on. The one who always has an issue, a drama, a problem? They are like rag dolls tumbling around in a perpetual cycle of constant misery and struggles.
Side Note – Please don’t think that I am minimizing real difficulties that come with life, or criticizing those that for whatever reason cannot seem to get their footing in this world. I am fully aware that there are seasons of life that bring challenges and trials, and with them, comes the struggle to remain positive and optimistic.
(Where were we, ah yes)
Negative people build their lives with sticks. They stand on a pile of criticisms and complaints that cannot withstand the gusts of life. So when the winds of conflict arise (however strong) they find themselves tossed around, or worse, in complete disarray. They have the tendency of marinating in their disappointment and discouragement. To them, life is lackluster, it’s endured – not lived.
Positive people build their lives with stones. Good words. Hope. These individuals aren’t immune to the struggles of life; they can just withstand the winds. Positive people CHOOSE to see the best in life, and vocalize it. They don’t dwell on the struggles, but look ahead expectant, with the mentality that “this too shall pass”. There is promise in their demeanor – confidence in their disposition.
Proverbs 18:21 gives this succinct nugget of truth, “death and life are in the power of the tongue”.
Interestingly, there are those who suggest that words are just that – words. Take for instance the well-known adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. It’s a solid comeback when you’re six years old and someone at recess calls you an ugly name; but the reality is that it’s fundamentally false.
Words create reality. They build. Tell yourself, “you’re not good enough” enough times, and eventually you’ll stand on it and believe it. Conversely, tell yourself, “you CAN do this” enough times, and eventually you’ll believe that too.
If I Can Be Honest
I constantly have to check myself. I am not a negative person by default, but I do struggle with being critical. I know, I’m not proud of it. I’ll criticize in hopes of making myself feel better. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts. Subconsciously I feel like criticizing something or someone will make me feel better about my own insecurities and dysfunctions. It’s funny though, because it never works. A criticism is made of sticks. It’s purpose isn’t to build, rather the intent is to tear down or diminish value – in hopes that I may prop myself up. Truthfully, it’s void of any real significance or worth. Amusingly, in trying to make myself feel better, I end up using faulty building material; for while the criticism may have been directed at someone else, the reality is I’ve now – in giving it – jeopardized the structural integrity of the life I’m building for myself.
Here’s where it gets sticky. Being married to Bri means that I’m no longer building for myself anymore. I am now building for Bri and our future children. Thus, the necessity to check my words is all the more pressing. When your family is at stake – build up, and build strong.
I am a firm believer in measuring my words. Granted, I fail all the time. But I believe there is value in at least KNOWING that your words have effect – for better or for worse.
Growing up, my parents were adamant about vocalizing the promises of God found in scripture. So when the water was shut off at home after my Dad left his full time job to do ministry, we didn’t sit and sulk in discouragement; instead, we marched our way down to the neighbors house for a shower, believing and declaring that “my God shall supply all my needs” (Phil 4:19). When Bri and I wanted to uproot our lives from South Florida and move to Virginia, we needed quite a few things to line up perfectly. The prospect of it all panning out seemed really low, but we chose to not speak doubt and instead declare Ephesians 3:20 over our lives, “Now to Him (God) who is able to do exceedingly, and abundantly above all that we ask or think”. We’ve been living in VA for over a year now.
Now I understand my faith convictions may be different than yours. But quite honestly, it makes no difference. Whether you believe the Bible or not is beside the point. Your life (and mine) is still a culmination of the words we’ve chosen to declare over ourselves – and believe of ourselves.
So I have to ask, what kind of life are you building? I’d say first check your words. Are complaints and criticisms a constant for you; or do you find yourself consciously looking for the silver lining in all situations? Is everyday a drag for you, or do you wake up thankful for another day and opportunity to do and be better?
What building material are you using? Are you using sticks by grumbling, or using stones by encouraging? Be advised that life itself will check the durability of what you’ve chosen to build with. My advice, build your life with stones. Encourage yourself and others. Speak life, not death. Choose to voice hope, not doubt. For if you do, when life comes huffing and puffing (and it will), you’ll find yourself weathering the storm, not picking up the pieces.