“I love calling home just to hear your voice,” my husband said as he left for work. I stopped for a moment to think about his words. His short sentence lightened a morning filled with the usual pressures of motherhood: a crying baby, a hurried breakfast, a messy kitchen.
Words can be a miraculous tool that warms the heart. They can turn discouragement into hope. They can show consideration, caring, and understanding. Words used this way invite the Lord’s Spirit.
Unfortunately, many of us are miserly with our praise. As a result, we may one day feel like the man who, mourning at his wife’s graveside, said, “She was a wonderful woman—and one time I almost told her so.”
Marriage partners are especially sensitive to words. The marriage itself can be strengthened or weakened merely by what is said.
“Don’t worry about the dented fender on the car,” my husband said as I agonized over being the first to mar our long-awaited new automobile. “It could have happened to anyone and isn’t worth fretting about.”
Words of consolation are important when our spouses make mistakes that leave them feeling miserable. Caring words bring feelings of appreciation and preserve self-respect.
A young mother told me she would never forget the day her husband came home distraught over leaving his wallet in a telephone booth. Her first reaction was to criticize his irresponsibility at losing the family’s rent money. But as she glanced at his sad, pained face, she kept silent. The rent could be paid a few weeks late. The young mother said the look on her husband’s face—a look that clearly showed his relief at not being criticized—was well worth her silence. After all, she reasoned, what good would have been accomplished had she heaped criticism on her already upset husband?
“You were wonderful. I’m so proud of you,” my husband whispered after I delivered a talk in stake conference that took hours of preparation and over which I had much anxiety.
Sincere words of praise for effort and accomplishment are just as important as words of understanding for mistakes. Performance need not be perfect to merit praise. Consider the ambitious young husband wrestling with a clogged kitchen drain. As he struggles in a contorted position under the sink, he bumps his head and slams down a tool in exasperation. His wife can add to his frustration by complaining about the mess he is making and by asking why he tries to fix things he knows nothing about. Or she can express sympathy for his bruised head and thank him for his efforts to save money.
“No one will start to eat until your mother, who has prepared this lovely meal, sits down and is ready to begin,” my husband said, verbally lifting me from cook to queen while our children sighed and waited to begin dinner.
Little things in human relations form the foundation of a happy, successful life. If the little things are attended to, the big things will take care of themselves. Lasting happiness seldom comes from monumental events, enormous wealth, stimulating entertainment, or phenomenal success. Happiness is found in the daily events that make up a person’s life. Words of respect, support, and gratitude can make daily events memorable.
“Thanks for all the fresh, beautifully ironed shirts in the closet,” said the note my husband had left for me on the dresser.
Written words can be one of the nicest and most inexpensive gifts we can give. While our son was on a mission, he wrote home on my birthday, apologizing for not having enough money to send me a gift. Instead, he wrote a beautiful poem, expressing heartfelt love and fond memories of home. As tears flooded my eyes, I wondered how he could apologize for his wonderful gift. His present has endured through the years. In moments of despair and sorrow, I have read and reread his poem, always receiving strength and encouragement.
“I agonize over your pain. When you suffer, I suffer,” my husband said as I walked the floor in misery from an aching arm.
Knowing that someone understands and shares your suffering eases life’s burdens and pain. The scriptures tell us, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Words of compassion and understanding can provide needed balm.
“How come you love Grandpa so much when you have been married more than 50 years?” my granddaughter asked after a visit.
“Because of his words,” I answered. “He has always been generous with them. His words have given me encouragement, self-respect, and joy. But most of all, his words have reflected the Savior’s love.”