Is It Edifying?

I wrote the following article in 2004 and was reminded of it recently when I received an e-newsletter called Vital Smarts, from the authors of Crucial Conversations. The e-newsletter features a Q&A, and the question that was posed was what to do about a gossiping boss… and what stood out in their response was the whole idea about whether someone at work is really an “accomplice or a friend” . . . and friends are edifying, so there you go – that’s how it came full circle for me.


Is it Edifying?

By Gwen Hayes

Several years ago I came across a little book called Silver Boxes-The Gift of Encouragement, written by Florence Littauer. Florence begins her book with a verse from Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

Florence went on to explain that she and her family had an agreement that during their dinnertime conversations, the words they used with each other had to be positive and uplifting, not negative. The idea was that their words should “do a favor for the recipient.” Their words and consequently the thoughts that precede them, should be edifying.

This stayed with me. I’d noticed how some people were speaking to other people in my family, my community, and my workplace. Actually, I’d noticed how I was feeling about some of the conversations I’d had recently, and I realized that what we surround ourselves with is what we’re apt to get back.

I realized that the words we use can build people up and do them a favour, or they can tear us down and leave us feeling diminished. I started listening more – to my own words, and started monitoring my own thoughts. The more I listened to what was going on around me, the more I wanted to be one of those people whose words are always gracious and always do a favour to the recipient. I have quite a ways to go, but the intention is there, and even the idea of it has made me a better person. Just knowing the word ‘edifying’ has made me pause and reflect before words I can never take back go tumbling out into the air.

As parent, employer, manager, client, or friend, when we consciously attempt to make our words edifying, the natural result is that the thoughts behind our words must also come from a kinder place. We will start to notice how the thoughts we allow to skip and frolic through our own minds can affect our self-perception, how we view the world, what we think we can achieve, and who we believe we can become. By becoming more aware of how we speak we are better able to recognize negative thoughts for what they are… and turn them around.

I am fortunate to know people whose words are always edifying; people who seem to have an extraordinary knack for sharing perspectives, delivering advice, or even administering gentle correction in ways that leave the recipient striving to do better, aspire higher, and be more. People who make you feel good every time you encounter them, who have a smile in their voice and lightness in their hearts that shines through as goodness. It’s a quality, that in coaching we call ‘attraction.’

Silver Boxes is a wonderful book for helping us find the language that makes others feel special by acknowledging, saying thank you, and becoming an encourager, and that’s what the word edifying is all about.

Copyright 2004 Gwen Hayes