Women have a way with words. A woman’s strength, influence, and ability to change the world for better—in every season and in every relationship—lies in the words she speaks each day. But with that God-given power comes the need to use it wisely, and this book provides both biblical and practical guidance to that end.
In A Way with Words, author and veteran speaker Christin Ditchfield challenges women to embrace God’s gift of words and to think carefully about how they use it. She looks at twelve timeless principles as she calls all women to examine their hearts, recognize when words are their “weapon of choice,” and learn how to steward this blessing to bring life, healing, and encouragement. Each chapter includes wisdom from influential women throughout history and a Bible study for individuals and small groups.
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||726 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Women Have a Way with Words
"Then the LORD God made a woman...." (Gen. 2:22)
It was an experience I would never forget. Years ago, I was asked to take over the preschool program at a local Christian school, filling in for a teacher who was needed at a different grade level. On my first day I was introduced to the seven students in my class: six fun-loving, rambunctious little boys and one adorable little girl, Colby. After an hour of free playtime, I called all of the children over to the table to color a picture. Before I could set the big tub of crayons down in the center of the table, the six boys began diving for it — crawling up on the table to reach into it. I was caught off guard by their eagerness. In all the years I'd been teaching, I'd never seen such enthusiasm over a tub of crayons. The boys were practically coming to blows, scratching and clawing and slapping each other's hands away. For the life of me, I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. There were hundreds of crayons in the bin — plenty for everyone. I understood even less when I realized they were fighting for the pink ones.
Every little boy in the class was determined to emerge from the bin with a pink crayon firmly in his grasp. It soon became clear that pink was Colby's favorite color. The boys wanted to color their own pictures pink, to imitate her, to earn her favor and approval. As the day went on, I learned that Colby ruled the class with a tiny velvet fist. All day long the boys competed to sit beside her, stand next to her — share the swings or the slide. She very sweetly dictated what games were played inside and out. Whenever I presented the boys with a choice of activity or course of action, they looked to Colby to see what she preferred. At four years old, Colby was the queen and every boy in the class her devoted servant. Her wish was their command.
"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!" — Sojourner Truth
It would take weeks of concerted effort on my part to loosen her grip — to gently dethrone Colby. (There could only be one "queen" in my classroom.) But it was an unforgettable experience, one that brought home to me a profound truth — the extraordinary power of a woman's influence. Barely out of babyhood, one little girl had the power to control and manipulate a classroom full of little boys. And she didn't have to be taught how. It's not as if she'd been to a seminar entitled "Learn to Get What You Want Today." She wasn't old enough to read, so she clearly hadn't gotten any tips from the self-help manuals on "winning friends and influencing people." She was born with the power to influence others. All women are. It's a God-thing.
"The practice of putting women on pedestals began to die out when it was discovered that they could give orders better from there." — Betty Grable
"Then the LORD God made a woman ..." (Gen. 2:22). The world has told women that for centuries they have been powerless — the hapless and helpless victims of a male-dominated society. Weak and inferior. But nothing could be further from the truth. It's true that down through history, in certain eras and cultures, formal education, professional careers, property ownership, and religious and political freedoms have been denied us. But we have never been powerless. From the very beginning — ever since Eve gave Adam that come-hither look in the garden of Eden — women have been having their way. And having their say. It's a truth so often reflected in centuries-old proverbs and colloquial expressions from around the world:
"Behind every great man is a woman."
"If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
"The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
"The man may be the head of the house, but the woman is the neck — and she turns the head any way she wants."
Expressions like these acknowledge the reality that as women, we are in fact naturally gifted by God with great power and influence. We always have been. We always will. Sometimes we exert this power directly. Other times our influence is felt through the example that we set — or the way others are challenged or inspired or motivated as a result of their relationship to us.
In the 1800s, in a letter to his fiancée, Emilie, Army surgeon Walter Reed was moved to exclaim, "Oh the power of a woman's influence when the heart of man is brought into subjection through love! Her frown prostrates him in the dust; her smile lifts him to Heaven! Ah! Tell me of the brilliant accomplishments of man and I will tell you of a heart enchained! Tell me of an effort that knows no relaxation by day or night, and I will tell you of the power of a woman's influence. She can degrade him to the level of a brute; she can elevate him to the position of a god. How careful she should be in the use of this great influence!" (Thanks in large part to Emilie's encouragement and support, Walter would one day become famous for making the groundbreaking discovery that mosquitoes transmit diseases like malaria and yellow fever — saving thousands, if not millions of lives as a result.)
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." — Eleanor Roosevelt
It's time we realized what an incredible privilege it is to be a woman ... and what an awesome responsibility! As women, we have tremendous power — and not just over the men in our lives. Think about it: a woman's sphere of influence today is far more diverse and extensive than ever before. It doesn't start when (and if) we get married. It doesn't end when our children leave home. We are not only wives and mothers, but daughters, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers. We are coworkers, employers, and employees. Today we have unprecedented power in the entertainment industry, the corporate world, politics, and sports. Our influence has expanded in churches, our communities, our culture, and around the world!
And the way we wield that influence most often is with our words. Women have a way with words. It begins in toddler-hood, when linguistics experts note that nearly 100 percent of the sounds emanating from our mouths are conversational — in other words, "chit-chat." Not true for our little brothers and their friends. In fact, as much as 90 percent of their communication at the same age is unintelligible noise: "Vroom, vroom! Bang! Pow!"
"I believe that it is as much a right and duty for women to do something with their lives as for men...." — Louisa May Alcott
We women talk sooner, and we talk more. Way more. It's been suggested that the average adult man speaks as many as 25,000 words a day. The average woman: 50,000. That's a staggering amount! What kind of words are we speaking? Words that build up, words that tear down. Words that guide and encourage and teach. Words that control and manipulate and deceive.
Remember the women who have spoken powerful words that have shaped your life. The words of a teacher who believed in you ... a grandmother who faithfully prayed ... a friend who took the time to listen — and then gave godly counsel — at a critical time in your life.
What about words that wounded you? Maybe your mother told you that you were a disappointment to her. Or you had a coach who ripped your performance to shreds. Remember the girls who teased you at school, who told you that you were too fat or too skinny or too tall. Or the boss who predicted you'd never make it in this business. Remember the things you've said to yourself in moments of discouragement or despair.
How have these words impacted you — for good or evil?
How have your words impacted others?
These are questions I've given a lot of thought to myself. I'm so grateful for the women who have encouraged me; I thank God for them. I have trouble forgiving and forgetting the words of those who have hurt me deeply. In fact, the only thing more painful to me than the memory of some of those words that have been spoken to me is the thought that I might have said the same kinds of things to others. A careless criticism or a thoughtless remark is all it takes to inflict that pain on someone else.
My parents (still!) proudly relate that I was a prodigious conversationalist with an extensive vocabulary by the time I was eighteen months old. According to my grandmother, I started preaching to my dollies when I was three. I wish that I could say all of my words have been biblical exhortation! But honestly, I've put my foot in my mouth more times than I care to remember. There are times when I said things I shouldn't — or didn't say things I should have.
"Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them." — Nathaniel Hawthorne
It's something I struggle with daily, as does every woman I know. As many words as we speak in a day, it's no wonder. Proverbs 10:19 says, "When words are many, sin is not absent...."
The Bible has a lot more to say about the power of our words and the battle to wield them wisely. The book of James observes,
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. (James 3:3–10)
It's a sobering thought, one that begs the question: How are we doing in our efforts to "tame our tongues"? Are the words we speak words that wound or words that heal? Words that live or words that die? And what do our words reveal about our hearts?
It's really not overstating it to say that God has given us the incredible potential, the awesome privilege, and the amazing opportunity to impact the lives of those we love in a powerful way. It's up to us to make the most of it — to learn to use our words wisely and well.
At the end of each chapter, you'll find questions like these to help you reflect on the biblical principles presented and apply them to your own life. You'll want to record your responses in a separate notebook or journal.
1. Jot down the names of the women who — for better or worse — have had the most significant impact on your life. They may be women you have known intimately and personally for a long time or women who came in and out of your life very briefly. You may also include women who have motivated you or inspired you from afar. Think about each one: how has her influence helped shape the woman you have become today?
2. Now list the names of the people whose lives you touch on a regular basis — friends and family members, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Think about some of the ways you influence them — the ways you interact with them and the kind of example you set.
3. Reread James 3:2–10. Which of the following statements best describes how you feel about "the power of the tongue" in your own life?
 I've never really thought much about it.
 I'm very aware of it. In fact, I'm actually kind of terrified of saying the wrong thing!
 This is an area of my life that I work really hard on. I know it's important.
 There are some aspects I've got under control; others I really struggle with.
 I realize that this is a major issue in my life. I need to do something about it.
4. Read Psalm 19:1–14. You may want to underline words or phrases that are meaningful to you. Then in your own words, summarize what each verse says.
a. Of what does all creation "speak" (1–6)?
b. Where do we find wisdom and instruction — not to mention joy and delight? Of what benefit is it to us (7–11)?
c. What two kinds of sin does the psalmist ask God to forgive and keep him from (12–13)?
5. This week, ask God to make you more aware of the power and influence he has given you, the opportunities you have to impact the lives of others. Pay attention to the kinds of words that come out of your mouth on a regular basis. Are they positive, uplifting, and beneficial to those who hear them? Or are they negative, unhelpful, even destructive?
6. If you haven't already, you may want to memorize the words of Psalm 19:14 and make it your special prayer this week:
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer."
7. Take a few moments to record any further thoughts in your notebook or journal.CHAPTER 2
Words That Wound
"The wise woman builds her house, but with her ownhands the foolish one tears hers down." (Prov. 14:1)
I could hear the weeping as I walked through the front door. I was in high school, and my mother had dropped me off for a weekend with my grandparents. I'd arrived a little early, and apparently my grandmother's Bible study group was still going strong. I tried to slip quietly past the living room and down the hall to the guest bedroom without disturbing them. As I did, I caught a glimpse of my grandmother standing in the center of the room, her body shaking with heart-rending sobs, her friends gathered around her, wrapping their arms around her and praying up a storm. Back in the bedroom, I unpacked my bag and glanced through a few books ... and waited. When everyone had gone, my grandmother called me to come to the kitchen for a cup of tea. She didn't want me to be worried about what I had seen or heard. She explained that the Bible study had been about letting go of the hurts of the past, and that God had put his finger on a wound in her heart that needed to be healed — a burden from which she needed to be set free.
"Woman is the salvation or the destruction of the family. She carries its destiny in the folds of her mantle." — Henri-Frederic Amiel
Still teary, my grandmother went on to tell me how she had realized that morning that there was a hurt she'd been holding onto ever since she was a little girl, something that had haunted her and hampered her all of her life. It seems that once, in a fit of anger, her mother had told her that she was a mistake and should never have been born. (Probably in reference to the fact that she'd been the reason her parents "had" to get married.) Her mother — my great-grandmother — was not a very sentimental woman; she had that stiff upper lip that the British are famous for. And this was long before she knew Jesus. I doubt if it would ever have occurred to her the anguish that her careless words could cause. But more than sixty years later, the pain was still so fresh that her daughter could hardly breathe. For decades her mother's words had hounded her. They robbed her of any sense of joy or satisfaction or fulfillment in her accomplishments. She'd become a national champion swimmer in her teens, an ambulance driver during World War II, and then a much-beloved wife and mother and grandmother. She was very active in the ministry of her church — always reaching out to younger women to welcome them and befriend them and mentor them. I can't count the number of these women who've told me how she touched their lives, how she blessed them and encouraged them. Yet in moments of weakness, at times when my grandmother was vulnerable, the devil used her mother's words to taunt her, to torment her, and to convince her that she was utterly useless and worthless, unwanted and unloved.
Wounded by words.
The world is full of women who have had their hopes shattered, their dreams dashed, their self-image left in shambles. Women who've been crippled or stifled or silenced by something hurtful that someone said to them. For some women, the wounds are more of a hindrance, an aggravation, a temporary setback, or a painful experience they eventually learn to "get over." Such an experience may even become a sort of catalyst that motivates and empowers a woman to rise to the challenge and prove her doubters and detractors wrong. But for every one of these, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who just can't get past the pain. Women who've been unable to enter into healthy relationships, unable to both give and receive unconditional love, because they've been convinced they aren't worthy of it. Women who've failed to live up to their potential or pursue their passion, who've refused to share their gifts and talents with others because someone once critiqued them harshly or accused them of being prideful or attention-seeking. Women who've literally starved themselves to death, because someone once told them they were fat. Women who have committed suicide to silence the critical voices that echoed endlessly in their heads.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Way with Words"
Copyright © 2010 Christin Ditchfield.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Women Have a Way with Words,
2. Words That Wound,
3. Words That Heal,
4. Words That Reveal,
5. Words That Live,
6. Words That Die,
7. Words That Sing,
8. Words That Cry,
9. Words That Reach,
10. Words That Teach,
11. Words That Ring,
12. Words Aren't Everything,
About the Author,