“Her mouth speaks wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26 CSB
The word instruction in this verse comes from the word “yarah” which means to teach, to instruct. The verse comes from the description of the Proverbs 31 woman, described as a “Wife of Noble Character”. She wasn’t crabby, she used love to instruct those around her.
When I first started teaching tennis, I learned this statistic. Children remember 80% of what you say to them, while you only remember 20% of what you say. I’ve learned this truth as I’ve had them mimic back to me my words. It has changed my life drastically, this one little statistic. It’s made me realize the power of my words to influence the next generation. Sometimes, as I’m on the tennis court teaching, I have a flashback from my childhood, to a coach that encouraged and inspired me to be the best version of me. Words that have stuck with me for over 30 years, makes me realize, words I say to these kids now could be reverberating in their minds years in the future. It makes you think twice about what you say. Speaking uplifting and encouraging words takes on a new meaning.
It can be challenging though. When the sun is beating down, the temperature is over 90 and no one is listening, it’s hard to stay positive. The frustration begins to boil in me as the kids begin to complain about the heat. After all, I’m working in the heat too, longer than they are. They only have to do an hour, I’ve got to do 3 or 4, even more some days. Patience runs thin on both sides, kind words can be far from my mouth. How do you stay positive then? When the heat’s turned up in your life, when the sun is beating down in its full glory, how do you keep your words loving and kind?
I try and keep perspective. I remind myself that this is a “momentary affliction” that is preparing me for eternity, looking “not to the things that are seen, but unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV). It’s temporary, it’s going to pass, but the words I say will last longer than an hour of intense heat in the sun. My sister-in-law Jill says it this way, “You can do anything for a minute.” She has told me this over and over again in my life when I was facing a tough task ahead. Whenever I’ve been faced with an unpleasant task ahead, she’ll use these words to encourage me. And she is right, I can do anything for a minute, an hour, even a year. The point isn’t the amount of time, the point is that it won’t last forever. Focus on the end game, because it will end, eventually. As the scripture says, what is seen will disappear, what is unseen will last for eternity.