Do not let any unwholesome talk proceed out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building other people up, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)
What a beautiful and practical piece of advice from the Apostle Paul. Think a moment about how we interact with others. When we meet them, does our encounter with others make a positive difference in their day? Do we build others up with our words and our expressions and our overall demeanor, or do we bring them down in some way. Or maybe our encounter simply make no difference at all in their day?
Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to be “a light” to others. If we are truly walking with Christ, and allowing His Spirit and Presence to fill our hearts, than we should be overflowing with His love. This automatically means that His light should shine through us. In other words, when people come into contact with us, they should experience a taste of our Lord Jesus Himself.
Think about this for a moment. When we meet someone who is filled with joy, smiling and positive, sincerely saying things that make us feel good and build us up, how do we feel? It is often contagious. Even if we are in a sour mood, our mood can quickly change.
And yet, the opposite is just as true. When we meet a pessimistic person, who is criticizing everything and everyone, who is finding fault here and there, and who is tearing us down, we quickly get defensive and enter into their foul mood.
Mother Teresa would often tell her sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, “Don’t let anyone ever come to you and enter into your presence without feeling the love of God. Let them leave their interaction with you feeling loved and feeling better.”
That is another way of saying what St. Paul advised in the opening verse. May our encounter with others build up, be helpful, and impart grace to the hearers.
Imagine how our day would go if each time we met someone we consciously tried to say something positive, something complimentary, something that would build them up. If we tried to offer encouraging words that would be helpful to them in that particular moment, how different their day would go. In fact, we would quickly realize how much people would love to be in our presence! Can we consciously struggle to become instruments of our Lord, bearers who carry His grace to all those we encounter?
It can all begin in such a simple way - with a smile. Sincere smiles are contagious! Smiles beget smiles. The shortest distance between two people is with a smile. And the smile transcends everyone language and culture.
Smile at each other. Smile at your wife and husband. Smile at your children. Smile at each other. It doesn’t matter who it is. And that smile will help you grow up in greater love for one another.
Smiling. Greeting someone with a cheerful voice. Saying something positive and encouraging. Offering a blessing with our demeanor, our expressions, our words, and our actions. Imparting grace to each person with whom we come into contact!
There is a beautiful letter that St. Nektarios wrote to one of his spiritual children, the Abbess Xenia. In it he advised her on how to shepherd the nuns in her monastery, but it is obviously good advise for each of us in the world. He writes, “Realize that your cheerfulness gladdens the faces of the Sisters and renders the convent a paradise… The joy and cheerfulness of the sisters depends upon you, and it is your duty to preserve this joy in their hearts. Do this even at times by forcing yourself. Become for them a cause of cheerfulness… When you gladden the heart of your neighbor, you may be sure that you please God much more than when you occupy yourself with extreme forms of askesis (i.e. prostrations, prolonged prayer and fasting).”
Of course, it is not always easy to smile at others and to encourage them. Some people are just mean and hurtful and filled with negativity. Sometimes it is quite difficult to smile at another, yet to smile is the beginning of love. We smile and encourage and build up and impart grace because we know that God is doing the same to us!
Our challenge and calling is not to react to others, but to be proactive in sharing the love that God instills in our own lives. This obviously implies that we must first experience our Lord’s love for us. We must be filled with His grace!
If we want to become “Christ-bearers”, carriers of God’s grace and love to others, than each and every day we must take the time to dwell in His presence. We must create the time, preferably in the morning before we begin each day, and allow ourselves to be filled with God’s love and presence. We must stand before Him in prayer, read His love letter to us, which is the Holy Scriptures, and invite His Holy Spirit to come and abide richly in us. After doing this, we are then prepared to go out into the world and bring His love to everyone we meet!
By filling ourselves with God’s presence we are then equipped to see the beauty in every person we meet, and call out that beauty.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk proceed out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building other people up, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
I pray we all become such instruments in God’s hands!
With much joy and love
in Jesus Christ our Lord,
Andrew the General & Martyr & his 2,593 soldiers; Holy Martyrs Timothy, Agapius and Thecla; Theophanes the New Wonderworker of Macedonia; Afterfeast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary; Eutychianos and Strategios the Martyrs
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