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Eight Words That Will Improve Your Life

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Try this brief exercise and see whether you can develop the tools to become a peacemaker.

There are eight little words, used in four simple phrases, that can help solve most of the interpersonal problems we encounter every day. They can end arguments, settle disputes and even bring peace. Sadly, most people are too proud to use them as often as they should, so they continue to suffer from needless strife and turmoil.

Two of the four phrases contain two words; two have three words. Two words are repeated. Before you read on, see if you can put these eight words together into four short phrases that can help bring an end to our conflicts with other people: I, me, you, am, forgive, love, sorry, thank.

Did you come up with the four phrases that can help bring peace? What are they?

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful" (Colossians 3:15). People with independent or self-reliant attitudes can find it hard to express gratitude. They do not like to acknowledge their need for help, and sometimes even resent others' kindness toward them. Parents have often seen their little children exhibit the immature attitude, "I wanted to do it myself!" As adults, we should understand that people need each other, and we should express appreciation for others' kindnesses. We ought to be grateful, even when people care enough to correct us (Proverbs 15:5). The first phrase we should always be ready to use is: "Thank you."

"If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well" (James 2:8). In our Western society, it can seem a little weird or uncomfortable to tell someone other than a close family member that he or she is loved. Satan has so distorted our view of natural affection and friendship that even in many marriages today, these words are rarely expressed. Yet God commands us even to love those who may hate us. "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). When we show through our actions that we care about another's welfare, even if we do not speak the words, we are in effect saying: "I love you."

Pride often stops us from expressing remorse. People do not like to admit that they are wrong. But if we stubbornly deny our mistakes—and fail to apologize to those we have hurt—we will only fortify their resentment. "A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle" (Proverbs 18:19). One of the best ways to "pour oil on troubled waters" is to say, sincerely: "I am sorry."

We know we are supposed to forgive others, but how often does our pride stop us from realizing our own need for forgiveness? "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits" (Proverbs 16:2). When we think of ourselves as righteous, we are not considering our need to be forgiven. "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2). When we stumble, it takes humility to go to those we have hurt, and to ask them: "Forgive me."

Using these words, when appropriate, is a symptom of Christ living in us. "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18). We will improve our relationships when we string together—and use whenever we can—the words that form these phrases: "Thank you," "I love you," "I am sorry," and "Forgive me."

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