I was a regular 5-year-old boy, walking down the sidewalk of a strip mall in south Louisville. Hand in hand with my mother, we were enjoying a lovely afternoon full of shopping and junk food. Suddenly a fashion queen with a somewhat unusual fashion emerged from the doors of the drug store we were approaching.

She was sporting a “beehive” hairdo so fresh that there could have been honey still dripping from the edges. Not knowing any better, my immediate response was to say the first thing that came to mind as loudly as possible, and I did. “Mom, look at that lady!” I exclaimed. “Her hair looks stupid!”

Shocked by the horror of the situation, my mother avoided eye contact with “Mrs. Hive,” tightened her grip, and quickened her pace while softly mumbling, “Yes, John, that’s true, but let’s not talk about that right now.”

Of course, I continued. “But Mom, you’ve got to look at that lady’s hair! It looks so stupid!”

“John, please quiet down,” my mom said. “It’s not nice to point at people and make fun of them.”

“But, Mom, just look at her!”

By that time Mrs. Hive had enough. In one short phrase she said it all: “You’re not funny, kid.”

That’s a brief and priceless memory for my family, but more important it is a good reminder of the power of words. Words hold power—even with people you’ve never met before. I also learned one more good lesson at a young age—you’re treading on thin ice when you start talking about a woman’s hairstyle!

I often look to Proverbs 18:21 as a good reminder of the power of words. It says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” It’s a simple choice—you can either choose to give life with your words or give death. This is especially true when it comes to your spouse.

Sometimes it’s easy, even automatic, to pick out wrong things your spouse does. But all that does is break your spouse down. How about this—next time you start to criticize your spouse for doing something wrong, think about the last time you praised him or her for something they did right.

We all need someone on our team, someone who’s pulling for us during the tough times. There’s a special comfort and security in knowing your spouse will cheer for you even when the world is dragging you down.

My wife, Julie, and I call ourselves the “self-esteem” family because we are dedicated to making our home a place where we feel esteemed, honored, and appreciated. Julie even has the “Best Husband in the World” award that she hands out on days that she’s especially proud of me. I could run through a brick wall when I get that award because her words give me life. They build me up. She makes me a better man than I would be without her.

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