Use Your Words to Heal, not to Hurt - The Warrior's Journey®

Use Your Words to Heal, not to Hurt

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) 

Author and Catholic priest, Mark Link tells a story of how praise and positive affirmation can affect a person’s life. It seems that a mouse had made its home in the scoring computer of a company that administers aptitude tests to students. By an incredible stroke of luck, this little critter triggered a key that changed the scores of a mediocre student named Henry Carson. It transformed his scores to those of a genius.  When his high school saw the printout of Henry’s phenomenal scores, they were delighted to learn they had such a stellar student in their midst. They expressed regret over any previous misappraisal of his potential and showered him with praise and voiced great hopes for his future.   

The result of this praise and positive affirmation was dramatic. Henry blossomed as a student and his academic performance soared. And would you believe it, college recruiters invited Henry and his parents out to dinner. New worlds opened up for the exultant youth. His confidence climbed higher and higher and his self-image became more and more robust. In short, Henry went on to become a leader of his generation – all because a little mouse unwittingly drummed up praise for a mediocre student.  

Psychologist and pastor, Cecil Osborne, once stated that for every criticism a person receives, he or she needs nine to ten positive affirmations to rebuild what criticism has broken. If this is even remotely true, then what kind of pain are we, as leaders, inflicting on the Officers and NCOs who run our organization for us?   

The Scripture says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing,” “A soothing tongue is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4), and “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). Breathe life into your fellow Soldiers and subordinates with encouraging words. 


  • Which would you say requires more skill, to build buildings or to tear them down? Which, then, is a greater display of skill, brains, and character – to build people up with praise and affirmation or tear them down with criticism and profanity? 
  • What are some things you can say to your fellow Soldiers and subordinates that will strengthen them? Tell them they did a great job?  Show your appreciation for a job well done? Look for some strength in them and praise it? 
  • When it comes to our own Soldiers, let’s be a healer and not a slayer. 

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