We all know the words we speak to each other are very powerful. They can either help or hurt, encourage or discourage, build up or tear down. And we’ve heard so often — both as children and adults, both in and out of the church — how important it is to use our words rightly for others’ benefit.
We know this already — and many of us practice it regularly, using words deliberately to offer hope, comfort, kindness and strength to those who need it. But what exactly are the words of life and healing that the people around us most need to hear? We won’t always know, and naturally it differs widely depending on the person and situation. But there are some messages of encouragement — for both women and men — that almost all of us want and need to hear quite often. Knowing what these messages are can help us understand each other a bit better and maybe brighten somebody’s day just when they need it most.
The encouraging message that women often need to hear is that they are beautiful. Now, I say this as a man, so my understanding may be limited. But a number of sources all seem to agree, including wisdom from Christian leaders, prevailing attitudes on social media and many of my own female friends. Girls and women want and need to be reassured that they are beautiful. It’s what their hearts crave and their deepest instincts need.
Of course, these compliments and encouraging words should encompass more than just physical beauty. In its truest sense, the word “beautiful” when describing a person should include more than just his or her looks. A woman’s heart and soul and mind can be beautiful, just as much as her face or body. An upright and virtuous character, a spirit that is gentle, loving and compassionate — these things are beautiful. And while “beautiful” isn’t a bad word, those who choose to use it as a compliment or encouragement may sometimes need to get more creative and convey with specific words exactly what they mean.
Ultimately for women, being called beautiful is about more than just being attractive. They want to know that someone appreciates and treasures them. They want to know that they are valuable and precious, valued and loved. And they need to be reminded of it regularly, through both words and actions.
Now, despite our outward efforts to appear tough, self-sufficient and emotionless, we men need to hear words of affirmation too. But for us, it’s not so much about being beautiful. We need a different kind of encouragement.
Some have said men need to be reassured that they are strong — physically strong, spiritually strong, capable, effective and successful at whatever they’re trying to do. And I think that’s true. But for Christian men in particular, it also extends to being good. We’re trying to be righteous men of God in the world. We’re trying to be strong and mighty spiritual warriors of goodness. And so it’s nice to be reminded once in a while that we’re walking the right path and making a positive difference.
I’ll give you an illustration. I’ve heard people say things like, “If you tell a girl she’s beautiful, then you’ll probably make her whole day.” Similarly, for me as a man, if a nice girl tells me that I’m “sweet” or I’ve done something to encourage her, then that pretty much makes my whole day. If she tells me that I’m a good guy or a gentleman or a strong Christian warrior, then those are some of the best and most meaningful compliments I could ever receive.
For men too, it’s about more than just simply being “strong” or “good.” It’s about knowing that we’re valued and appreciated, that we’re making a difference and that our lives are impacting someone positively.
No matter who we are or what our circumstances in life, we all sometimes need to hear genuine words of affirmation to counter the world’s negative influences and help us stay positive. We all need to be reminded we are valued, appreciated and loved for who we are and for our efforts — by people and by God.
Remember these things as you go forward. Make the effort to encourage. Take the time to verbally offer kindness and hope to someone, sincerely and specifically. Let them know they are valued. Help them forget their insecurities. Go out of your way to speak the words of life and edification that others need to hear. A genuine word of kindness is never wasted and can ultimately bless both the speaker and the hearer.