No man is an island

Do you remember writing compositions in primary school? The teacher  would either give you an opening statement, an ending phrase or a title to a story and within 40 minutes, you should have come up with tantalizing plot details that would make everyone want to read your story. I remember the vocabulary we would splurge on those foolscaps; I woke up as my mother drew the curtains, exposing the sun rays that burst into my room. I then went to the frog’s kingdom and slowly took a shower, the cold water sending chills up and down my spine…Hehe! Those good old days! Let alone having a character, setting, conflict, plot and theme of a story all in two A4 pages. God bless our teachers for their diligence in teaching us all that! 🙂 

I remember a couple of the stories I wrote (I’ve always had a love for reading and writing!) A particular one that stands out is one I wrote in Class 5 titled ‘No man is an island.’  I got great marks for this stellar narration and what an honor it was to read it out to my classmates during the next English class. What’s more intriguing, however, is that the title ‘No man is an island‘ only seems to be sinking in right now. I would definitely give my 10 year old self a pat on the back for attempting to narrate, through a story, the depth of that statement. Perhaps my 21 year old self will try do it as much justice.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia
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“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver”. Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)

I personally believe words and actions have the potential to change lives. Words especially are very important to me, either those said or those not said. I only concretely realized this when I analyzed the pattern of how I usually show my love to others. One particular occasion was in Form 4. My birthday that year happened to fall a few days after our midterm break. Throughout, I wondered what I would do to celebrate it. I saw it fit to write down personalized encouraging words to my classmates and friends, appreciating the part they play in my life. I printed out several quotes and over a few days, sat down writing to each one of my classmates and roommates. ( Dear Dad, now you know who used to use the printer a lot and finish the ink cartridges. Thanks! 🙂 )

The part I enjoyed planning was how to give it to them. For my classmates, while the class was being cleaned that morning, I placed in each of their Bibles the small note. None of us was allowed to be in class during duty time to allow for easy cleaning so it was the perfect opportunity to carry out my plan. I was also ‘conveniently’ in charge of making the list of who would lead the daily class Bible study and prayers…you can only guess whom I put on that day. Myself! 😉

After breakfast and before the Sunday morning preps begun, I rightfully went to the front of the class to lead the prayers. I thanked God for how far He had brought me and then asked everyone to turn to Nehemiah 8:10. I couldn’t contain my excitement as they started getting their Bibles out. It was beautiful to see their faces light up as they ..ahem ahem… ‘coincidentally’ found the small personalized notes I’d left on that page of their Bibles.

Ps- I bet you’re wondering why Nehemiah 8:10; “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” 🙂

That’s just one example of how much I value encouragement. I can give several others on how something someone said to me literally lit up my world at a point when I felt all the lights were dwindling out. Hope was restored and renewed strength bestowed to me. I bet that could be true for you as well. Hence why I say, when you see something beautiful in someone, tell them. It may take one second to say, but for them it could last a lifetime.

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“Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful!” Proverbs 15:23 (MSG)


Sadly, it may not be an instinctive culture for everyone to encourage, but I guess that’s where sanctification comes in. We shy away under the facade that we are ‘hard-core’/ gangsta and can’t say these ‘nice mushy’ things. But what do I love? I love the fact that even though man, due to his imperfection, can fail to encourage you when you need him, there is an incomparable faithfulness in God. The strong tower to whom we can run to and find refuge.

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On the flip side, some people fully rely on compliments or approval from other people in order to feel good about themselves. I am learning that we cannot derive our validation for existence based on what our fellow human beings say. God’s grace is sufficient and that is all the validation we need.

He whispers words that calm my heart. He calms the raging winds and stills the troubling storm. His grace is like an ocean, vast and soothing, powerful in all its moving. AT ALL TIMES!

In fact, let’s look at a few examples in the Word of how Jesus expresses appreciation and gratitude, uses thoughtful words and teaches the graciousness of kind words to validate the virtues of others:

Jesus extolled those He healed, “Your faith has made you well.”

When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, He said of Him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

When His disciples were caught up in a storm, Jesus approached the boat, walking on the water and said, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”

To the woman caught in adultery; “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

To Martha as she wept over the loss of her brother Lazarus, “Your brother will rise again.”

Jesus comforting his disciples before He died; “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

To Peter when He described Him as the Rock : “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah….and I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”

What beautiful affirmation from Christ Himself! If only we were to be His hands and feet in this day and age, and encourage others as He did. Dr. Mitchell Kalpakgan in his article ‘Praise and compliments’ states;

Although charity performs good deeds from a pure love of virtue for its own sake without intention of reward or kudos, justice demands an expression of gratitude or compliment. The rhythm of love is to give and receive, to act and react, to speak and respond, to sow and to reap.

 

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I will leave you with a poem by Mitchell Kalpakgan that will help you to evaluate whether you have chosen to live as a man on an island; choosing not to give praises as graciously as you receive them. Redeemed speech can only come from godly wisdom being imparted to us. Worldly wisdom will only lead to a tongue infused with bitterness, bragging and a denial of truth.

Not to praise is a form of selfishness, not giving to others the esteem they deserve.

Not to praise is a form of avarice, a hoarding of good words and beautiful sentiments that are never dispensed for the benefit of others.

Not to praise is a form of envy, resentment at the compliments offered to others rather than given to one’s own self.

Not to praise as Christ’s praise is a form of inhumanity, a failure to love one’s neighbor and lack of charity.


The simplest compliments mean the most. Make someone’s day. Encourage them. Visit them in hospital. Ask them why they weren’t able to come to school or to work. Show genuine concern. Offer to help them out with a hard task. Remind them that they are loved even when feelings of inferiority, insecurity and self-doubt creep into their hearts. Help them to see themselves the way He does.

“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 (NIV)

 

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