5-16-21 | Influence | Jeremy Hudson
Does your Influence Stink?
A few years ago, my wife suffered a devastating accident while driving our family SUV.
Before you get overly concerned, no other cars were involved, and no one was injured in any way. That is because it was not actually the “automobile accident” you might be imagining.
One day, as she was doing the amazing job of working her way through a to-do list of multiple tasks and errands while caring for our then-small kids—she accidentally knocked over and completely spilled her large chai tea latte all over the driver’s seat and floorboards.
Ask any young mom with small kids, who is trying to accomplish more in her day than humanly possible, who is also working hard to be present for her family and she will tell you that her favorite afternoon coffee (or other genre) drink is so much more than just a refreshing beverage. It is a therapy session over ice and in a cup. Ironically, the cost is about the same too.
I still remember the almost desperate frustration in Jewels’ voice as she explained what had happened. I also remember that the devastation she was sharing came entirely because of the loss of her drink and had nothing to do with the mess the spill had produced.
For me, that was the real devastation.
Her chai latte was about 30% milk, and for all my efforts to clean up the mess, I could not get all the milky chai out of the cloth flooring. So, what did the remaining milk do? What milk does best—it spoiled. For the next two years that we owned the car, you had to take a deep breath before you got into the car, lest you be overcome with the foul smell, festering inside the enclosed space. Summer days were the worst. I have a strong stomach, and yet I would gag every time I had to crawl into the hot car.
The effects of the spoiled mishap lingered for years.
In Ephesians 4:29 Paul gives this exhortation-
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,
but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion,
that it may give grace to those who hear.”
In the original Greek language, Paul’s words would be better translated “Let no spoiled or rotten words come out of your mouths…”
The idea Paul was trying to drive home was that words have an effect. They either produce health or take it away. In many ways, our words have a similar impact on a body as food. Good food gives life and energy. It contributes to focus and even growth. Conversely, spoiled food depletes energy and threatens life.
Our words have an impact.
Paul says that good, wholesome words actually build up the person that hears and/or receives them. But spoiled words do nothing but tear a person down. Whether they are spewed via rant or by dishing out the latest gossip, rotten words cause the same threat to a person’s emotional and mental health as spoiled food gives a person’s physical health.
This past weekend we said that:
When we speak, we are influencing others.
Whether that is good influence or bad, depends on the words we choose.
One more thought…
We would do well to remember that a spoiled word spoken to someone today still has its sickening effect tomorrow. Just as the residual aroma of Jewels’ chai latte lingered and nauseated for a long time after the actual mishap, so our words can continue to produce the gut-wrenching pain even years after they were spoken. And, like the family SUV, the stench and strength are only magnified as temperatures rise.
So, how does our influence smell to others?
Do our words produce an aroma that draws people in closer, ultimately so we can SHOW them a picture of Christ that is appealing to them?
Or do our words leave a stench in their nostrils that make people want to keep Jesus at arm’s length because of something His followers said that just won’t leave their minds?
When we put it that way, it’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it?
Three steps to making sure your influence doesn’t stink.
1. Don’t Press Send: Whether it’s an email we are writing, a post or a comment you are about to put up, or the next words that are about to come out of your mouth, practice the discipline of stopping before you do anything. This will give you time to think through what you are about to say, or what you want to say, so that you can discern if it needs to be said at all. This will come in step #2.
2. Stop and Pray: As one of our Fellowship culture points, taking time to stop and pray first gives us the space for God to show us a picture of what building up the person we are responding to looks like. Ask God to give you the same words He would lovingly use if He were responding to the situation.
3. Use GraceTalk (or nothing): When you are finally ready to respond use only the words that like Paul said here are full of Grace. Pick words that display an unmerited favor to the other person, regardless of what they may have done or said. The goal should only be to build them up… and if you can’t come up with anything that does that well—THEN SAY NOTHING.