The Amazing Power of Words


Here's an exercise some of the people you serve will benefit from and may never forget.

In a small group setting-a committee, the deacons, the church staff, or a cluster of friends in a living room-ask for volunteers to tell how two things have occurred in their childhood: First, how someone hurt them with harsh words, and secondly, how someone's positive words empowered them.

The emphasis is on "childhood" for several reasons. First, we're not trying to unearth recent slights and hurts. Those need to be dealt with in other settings. Second, by now most individuals will have come to terms with the old pains and can speak of them dispassionately. And third, everyone identifies with a child. Tell of a pain you experienced as a 5-year-old and everyone in the room winces.

Also, you're asking for volunteers to share. You are definitely not "starting with Bob here and going around the room," urging everyone to tell their story. You don't have time for that, and the experience might produce more trauma than you anticipated or are prepared to deal with. This exercise is geared to helping, not hurting.

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