I was recently referred to the article “Words that Pack Power” written by Frank Luntz published in the November 3, 2008 issue of Businessweek magazine. His thesis is that in business there are five words which are powerful.  These words were “consequences, impact, reliability, mission and commitment.”

Within the mentally challenged community there are also words that have great impact.  Yesterday, I found a new set of words that brought a transformation to a small group of our members with whom I have a great deal of contact.  The words were “you are good enough.”

The Special Gathering is a ministry that seeks to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.  Working with The Special Gathering choirs for almost 20 years, I’ve learned that the hardest thing I have to teach them is to look at me.  Each new member must be taught that they are to look at me and not take their eyes from me.  This is painfully hard for them.  I learned that this problem is epidemic within the community as a whole. 

Yesterday was perhaps my worst experience with this problem.  Mary Lou has a solo in our upcoming Christmas play, Above All Else.  This is her second year in choir.  However, she is still not able to look at me.  I’ve worked, pleaded and cajoled.  Nothing has worked. 

The great concern for her and for me is that each time Mary Lou looks away, she misses a que during her solo.  She will come in wrong or not come in at all.  Yesterday, she was on the verge of tears.  I quietly prayed, Oh, Lord, help me, help her.  Then I said, “Someone has taught you that you aren’t good enough to look at people.  You have learned that you can’t look at people because you aren’t good enough.”  Silent tears began to flow and–as an interesting aside–tears pooled in the eyes of several other members. 

“Let me tell you something,” I said as forcefully as I could.  I backed away slightly to address all the members of the choir.  “You are good enough to look at me and every other person in the world.  You are good enough to look at me in the eyeballs.  You are God’s child and you are as good as any other child of God.  You are good enough.  Now look at me. 

“You are good enough,” I repeated again and again.  “Don’t believe anything anyone has told you in the past.  You are good enough.”

Please understand. Probably NO ONE has ever verbalized the words to Mary Lou or our other members, “You are not good enough.”  But this community has been told that in a thousand different ways almost every day of their lives. 

Yesterday, it was as though a there was a transformational experience that happened in each of these choir members.  They smiled, sat up straighter; and they looked at me, square in the eye.  Unbidden, the tears were still flowing down the cheeks of Mary Lou but she, too, sat up straight.  She was smiling and she didn’t take her eyes off of me for one second during the rest of the rehearsal. 

 I was amazed.  Using those words God had done a miracle in her life and that miracle had spilled over into the lives of the other choir members.  Can a lifetime of untruth be erased in one moment?  I’m not so naive that I think that but I now know that there are key words that can have the impact to unlock the hurt and pain bringing God’s redemptive healing and release.

What are some of the words that you have found that have great impact on your members?