Since the time we were children, voices have surrounded us. Voices that have shaped and influenced us. Hugs, kisses, caresses, praises, and encouragements; or instructions, demonstrations, opinions, and corrections; and all too often harsh declarations, expressions, yelling, slapping, whipping, hitting, and beatings…there are a full array of sounds that the voices carry. The voices accumulate and the effect is lasting—it is part of what being human means.
Over time they can become a harmonious symphony that reflects beautifully in our lives and character, or they can build into a horrendous cacophony of clamor—a catalog of sayings and the memories of their accompanying acts that we would rather forget.
Voices shape the world
In life, voices influence humanity perhaps more than anything else. Homes, schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, community halls, bars, workplaces—these are all places of great influence. These are the places where we hear voices that can’t be ignored because they are sown in with the fabric of our lives. We must take care, when possible, which voices we choose to listen to.
However, children have little choice in the matter. Can you remember voices that shaped you? It was probably a mixed bag of both the good and the bad. Either way, those voices are important to remember. You now have a voice that can either be used to build up or to tear down.
Voices influence how we regard ourselves and others
Both self-esteem and our estimation of others are bound together with this issue. How can we express love when we have never seen it, or don’t know what it sounds like? Of course we can do so to one degree or another; I believe that God made us in His image—not that we are God, but rather much like the art is part of the artist—and that fact alone gives us the ability to love, because God is love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4: 7-8
The same is true of respect, honor, justice, compassion, mercy, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, peace, joy, self-control, and etc, and yet love is the keystone of attributes. The voices that teach us fan these virtues into flame. But unsavory words and deeds snuff them out like a campfire in a thunderstorm.
It matters who does the talking
So, when we can, we take care to which voices that we listen. I did not heed this very well until I was about 24 years old. I don’t recommend waiting that long. You can easily start as a child. But for me, I started to pay more careful attention to that which I listened to at the age of 24. That means that I had already lived years’ worth of careless listening.
Also, I didn’t really know how to take voices that build seriously. I had to learn. Transformation is a process that takes time. And doubt—which can seriously stunt any kind of growth—is part of the equation. This lesson is ultra important, because it took many years for you to begin learning to build, and it will take more years than that to overcome the old voices and acts that have helped shape you thus far.
Your life is like a garden and needs constant cultivation and nurturing. It is all too easy to become complacent and allow a drought or weeds to choke the beauty and life from you.
You may find that there are voices in your head. Nothing audible; just consistent, persistent, and almost predictable agents of interest. It’s odd how these voices are almost always negative, telling you what you can’t do, how badly you behave, and that you will never win. Such voices are the most insidious and need pulled from the garden and burned. Immediately.
You can fool some of the people some of the time…
Some people are good at mustering confidence or putting on a good face even if they don’t feel like it or believe it of themselves. The problem is that this is a deception can develop into a lifelong habit. Besides fooling yourself, you are also able to fool others. For a while. So you live a lie.
But everyone knows exactly when they meet a person who has true confidence and self-worth. There is no mistaking it. This immediately reveals the truth about you. The road of acting your way through life is not worth it and will lead you to a shameful experience that will reinforce what has already been at work to tear you down.
Why stand for it in yourself or in others? Become a part of the conversation that builds. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself that you are worth it. Tell others the same. Do you doubt me? That’s fine. But it is also what God thinks of you and others. Do you think that He is lying?
Listening is a choice
Be the true you, as true as you can in this moment—take a good look and be honest!—and begin to build on that no matter your age or circumstance. Don’t try and start with the outcome that you want, the ideal, the vision that you have of who you want to become. Be who you are and build toward the person that you envision.
One key way to do this is to check and control who is talking to you. Choose voices that will help you on your journey.
You are the captain of your ship–it is up to you to choose voices that build. And then never stop listening to them for the rest of your life.
Have you had voices that build in your life? Can you share an example or two with us? Have you ever been a voice that builds in another sojourner’s life? Why? Why not? A better world depends on all our involvement!