How shall we respond to the pandemic, to the confusion in Washington, to civil unrest? The wildfires, hurricanes, personal catastrophes, and the nagging notion that it is only going to become worse, have made us a nation on edge. Somewhere between rioting and a fatalistic surrender is the purpose God has given us individually. We overcome evil with good. We overcome darkness with light. We overcome lies with truth.


At their best, writers and speakers do these things consistently, giving encouragement and direction to individuals and to society. Adolph Hitler and Martin Luther King Jr. are examples of the worst and best in rallying people. Such influence is not the exclusive property of the famous and eloquent. Indeed, a perfect stranger might say something that changes the listener’s day for better or worse. The biblical books of Proverbs and James are replete with admonitions about using our words to edify.


Words can be more harmful than the sticks and stones that break our bones. We were created to be interdependent — to validate, and receive validation from, others. Adam’s sin corrupted that plan. Children and young adults seem to be particularly susceptible as they struggle to establish their identities. Older people with toxic pasts might experience reawakening of anxiety and/or depression as the the result of a verbal trigger. A lifetime of failure, or even suicide may result.


I had been in a certain organization for several years, having established myself as something of a leader. A new person came into our chapter aggressively arguing for change. He was charismatic, but his lack of understanding might have harmed the group. I opposed him, which made him more assertive. One day after he had spoken to the group, I had to admit to myself that he had some good ideas. An inner voice told me I needed to tell him that. While I was resisting the thought, he left the building.


Next time, I told myself.


Now! The inner voice insisted.


I caught up wit him in the parking lot and said sincerely that I appreciated the thoughts he shared for improving the organization. In that moment, we became friends. His aggressiveness, born of insecurity, vanished with acceptance.


I have discovered that getting outside of yourself — finding ad encouraging the good in other people — can be a great stress reliever. It takes your mind off your own problems. It gives you a sense of purpose. You are creating or deepening friendships. Best of all, you know you are pleasing God.


Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.