Proverbs 12:18 (ESV) says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
My wife would be the first to tell you that I LOVE words of affirmation, and I’m particularly sensitive to words of criticism. Recently while speaking at a Christian medical missionary conference in Orlando, Florida, I shared a truth that I had discovered about being a short-term medical missionary. That “truth” is that it is far better to go to serve at a mission hospital and to watch for what is good rather than to point out what is bad. Then I shared with the audience that I, too, LOVE words of affirmation, and half jokingly said, “so if you liked what I had to say today, then please come up and tell me what a good job I did; and if you didn’t like what I had to say today, then please don’t say anything.”
Well, as you would guess, after my presentation was over, people from the audience came up to tell me what a good job I had done, and that they found my presentation very helpful and interesting. Even if they were being disingenuous, I still LOVED their words of affirmation.
But this also caused me to have a moment of self reflection; actually, far more than just a moment, but rather weeks of reflection about how critical I have been in the past, in fact, for most of my career. It seems I have a particularly keen eye for what is wrong with something, and am more than willing to point out how something could be fixed. But my eyes are often myopic when trying to see what is good, admirable, and perfect.
So, as I departed this time to go back onto the mission field to serve, I made an intentional effort to see what was good, admirable and perfect; to look for the excellence and incredible intellectual and character traits in the people around me. But not just to leave it at the point of observation, but also to speak aloud and articulate what I see is good, admirable and perfect; in essence, to speak aloud those words of affirmation that I, too, so LOVE to hear.
Just a few days ago, five short-term physicians left after covering for the long-term physicians who had been away at a conference. I wrote each one of them a note, telling them the positive attributes that I had witnessed in them, and how grateful I was to serve beside them. Several of them messaged me back to tell me how much these words of affirmation meant to them.
My challenge for myself, and for you, today, is to keep your eyes open and focused on what is true, honorable and just; watch for things that are pure, lovely and commendable; searching for what is praiseworthy. Then open my (your) mouth and speak those words of affirmation people love to hear; spurring them on to do more good and to LOVE more.
Dr. Allan Sawyer and his family have been serving in developing countries since 2003. After “retiring” from private practice in January of 2017, Dr. Sawyer is now devoting himself to serving and teaching at mission hospitals around the world. Click here to follow Dr. Sawyer’s blog and support the work he is doing globally.