February 12, 2021 marks the beginning of Chinese New Year, a time to commemorate togetherness with families and friends surrounding a table full of traditional Chinese dishes, filled with waves of laughter and conversations that warm an entire home. Growing up in a Chinese household, one of my family’s traditions to welcome the Chinese New Year was to greet my parents with words of blessing first thing in the morning. In return, my parents would gift my siblings and I red envelopes (红包) filled with crisp dollar bills while expressing their words of blessing to each of us. This customary verbal exchange of blessings symbolizes the life-giving power of words between generations, and in Chinese tradition, the words we choose to speak to others matters profoundly, especially during Chinese New Year.
Throughout the Scriptures, God reminds us of “the power of the tongue” and how our word choices matter at all times, as followers of Christ. Proverbs 15:4 says, “a soothing tongue is a tree of life; but a perverse tongue crushes the Spirit.” During a time of global pandemic and social unrest, our word choices embody a heightened power to radiate light or permeate darkness into the world.
As educators navigating through the uncertainties of how to care for our students, not only have our teaching venues been transformed into virtual or socially distanced spaces, but we have also been presented with unique challenges in how to effectively communicate with our students and their families through unconventional modalities.
A simple greeting of a hug or high five is no longer “simple” and has been replaced with virtual hugs or “emojified” to conform with our technologically savvy generation. Establishment of school-home relationships has to be reimagined to maintain sensitivity with families who may not have sufficient resources to attend meetings virtually or have the capacity to manage unexpected stressors all at once.
Regardless, if we are interacting with others in person or through a computer screen, our words continue to travel seamlessly with the capability to alter listeners’ emotions or actions. When our words are spoken, it releases an impression on others that not only resonates into their mindset, but when digitalized, relinquishes a sense of virtual permanence, which one can reference repeatedly and be reminded of its associated emotions.
At the turn of the century, our world continued to witness both positive and negative ramifications of word choices across various platforms. In the field of education, we witness the increasing provocation to recognize and respond to the digital epidemic of bullying behaviors or to observe the alarming consequences untamed verbal exchanges can have on students’ physical and mental health.
As Christian educators, we are called to be one in Christ through our actions and our words. Our word choices are a form of ministry to all persons from all backgrounds, not just to be expressed on “special occasions,” or to those for whom we hold special affection, but to each person every day. God has blessed us with His Spirit and given us the privilege to uphold and honor Him by illuminating His agape love with our students, their families, and all those God has destined to cross our paths for a season. Ultimately, the tongue is a part of our body and the choice is ours to use it as “a tree of life” or to “crush the spirit.”
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
During your time of prayer, consider the following:
- Are my words a reflection of God’s agape love to all my students?
- How do I model Christ’s love and forgiveness to my students, parents, and colleagues through my word choices?
- Do my words serve as a blessing or stumbling block in the lives of my students, their families, and all others God has placed in my life?
- Do my words illuminate or desecrate others’ spirits?
Dear Heavenly Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you. Please help me be cognizant of my word choices and model your Spirit through my interactions with my students, their families, and all those whose presence you have allowed to cross paths with mine. May my words be life-giving and illuminate Your agape love to others during this season of uncertainties. In Jesus’ name, Amen.