I was talking with a friend awhile back about my life–my hopes and dreams–when he asked me what my greatest fear was.
“Not doing anything worth meaning,” I replied.
Recently, I’ve found my mind wandering to my legacy, sincerely curious about the kind of impact I am making, the kind of mark I am leaving on this world.
I wonder, am I a light and an encouragement to others? Do my actions illustrate goodness? Do my words exemplify love? Truth? Would Jesus be proud of me–of my choices and actions–if I had the chance to ask Him, right here, right now?
I am bewildered by the lack of compassion and civility in the world today. To some, this may be a naïve statement, but even considering all that I’ve been through, it still surprises me when I see hatred, contempt, and disparagement spewed out on a recurring basis.
Truth be told, I hang my head in shame each time I see a negative comment posted without thought–without any regard for humanity–on social media.
I think of the people who are struggling to keep their heads above water, holding on ever so faintly for that one kind word–that one act of compassion that will give them the strength they need to continue. I think of all of the children–the little girls and boys–who wake up every day in fear of lack of acceptance or worth. And I think, “My goodness! This is what we are leaving our children with?”
The anger. The hatred. The bitterness. We have to do better. We have to be better.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus says:
“It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
Matthew 15:11 (NLT).
Jesus says again in Matthew 12:36-37 (NLT),
“And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
To create a better future–for ourselves and for our loved ones–we must be mindful of the words that come out of our mouths, because the words we speak have indescribable power. To create a better future for us–now in this moment and for all that come after us–we must think better thoughts.
We have a choice. We can be better. We can choose either to build others up or tear them down with what we say.
When we act with love and compassion in our hearts, however, we are revealing Jesus to another person. A long time ago, a friend once asked me, “What if one moment with you is the only opportunity someone has to encounter God?” Acting with love and compassion in our hearts is a simple way of communicating God’s goodness to another person—to other people.
I choose to combat the ugliness of this fallen world with love. With kindness. With compassion.
Not because I believe that doing so shines my own light, but rather because I believe within the very depths of my heart that doing so reflects His. Marvin J. Ashton once said, “Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart—one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.” I am sure nearly every person has defined the term success in their own way over the course of time. This definition has been critiqued and has changed with the ebb and flow of life a thousand times over, but for me it has always been simple: Leave people better than I found them.
There are many passages throughout the Bible that encourage believers to be a light and speak life unto others. Within the depths of my heart, I have worked tirelessly to be the light and the good that God speaks of.
“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”
2 Thessalonians 3:13, (NIV).
“To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
Colossians 1:29, (NIV).
“Never tire of doing what is good,”
“Christ so powerfully works in me…”
These words have been on my heart lately. I pray that my compassion never runs out, that I am always equipped to emulate the love and goodness of Jesus Christ. That, ultimately, when people talk to me, they see Jesus, even if only for a moment. My heart aches for this and it is my greatest hope for myself in this life.
More so, this hope is what I deem to be my own definition of success. To reveal the love and goodness of Jesus to others–to make Him known–is ultimately fulfilling God’s plan for my life. Perhaps, then, with my words, I am living up to my God-given potential and accomplishing His will in my time.
And, in knowing that, I know that I am already living with meaning.
God is moving through me!
I pray that goodness always remains in my heart–that I am able to pour it out over others–even on my worst days. Even when it seems too difficult or too exhausting. Because speaking life gives life.
Let us remember what God says in Proverbs 16:24 (NLT):
“Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
I am writing this not to condemn you or criticize you, but to encourage you to do what is good. What is sometimes hard. What, at times, seems unimaginable. Difficult. Daunting. I am encouraging you to lead with love, and to follow that love, because love wins. Jesus wins. Every time.
words by Amanda LeMasters and photo by Kate Bartley