How to Use Words for Positive Change

By Judy Mills

Photo by Luca Bravo

Photo by Luca Bravo

By Judy Mills

Can we bring about positive change in our city and make a favorable impact on the lives of the people around us? Given the size and complexities of New York City and her millions of people, a quick answer would be, “no, not really.”  

Yet often the most significant change happens one person at a time. When we intentionally use our words for good, the answer to the question is “yes.” Why? Because our words have power.  

A friend’s words recently reminded of this fact. “Your story is something people would want to hear,” she commented.

Her words surprised me. I’ve always felt my story is a bit “vanilla” and — let me get right down to it — boring. I haven’t done what I’d consider to be great things.  

Her words came at a time I felt down. With one poignant sentence followed by a short explanation, she gave me a new perspective and some much needed encouragement. Her words filled me with courage.

Likewise, there are many ways we can use words to bring good to our city and the people around us one person at a time.  Here are three suggestions:


When we see it, let’s say it. Whether it’s to a stranger on the subway or over dinner with our best friend, let’s call out the beauty and good we see. Here’s what’s true: that person likely struggles more than we know, and probably needs the encouragement more than we realize.  

I’m not talking shallow flattery. They’ll see through that, and so we should seriously consider what we say. Follow the advice of this Proverb: Cutting remarks stab and hurt. But the words of the wise soothe and heal.

Our words have much power to restore a life.    


Just like us, our friends mess up and get down on themselves. When they do, phrases which begin, “I’ll never….”  “I always…” finish with negative self-judgments.

In times like these, we have the opportunity to point out she is who she seeks to be, even though she is struggling to see it.

Friends who see our stupid mistakes don’t label us as that person. Instead, they call out who God made us and who he declares us to be — radiant and unashamed.   


There’s wisdom in the statement: Unsolicited advice is criticism. I often recall that saying to stop myself from giving an unwanted opinion.  

When people ask what we think, let’s find kind words with which to be honest. Some of my most life-giving conversations are the ones where friends were truthful with me.

It’s wise to check our motives — are we being upfront to prove something, or are we trying to love and help them? When our hearts are in the right place, Speaking honestly is a sign of true friendship.  Let’s love our friends by giving them the honesty they seek.

In summary, your words are so powerful that they will kill or give life.  

As I recall the impact words of encouragement have had on me, as well as the times I could have used them, I’m motivated to give to another person what I so desperately need to receive myself.

How can you use your words to powerfully impact our city one person at a time?