During the last few years in my career as a teacher we switched to purple pens of positivity to mark students work. At the end of the piece of work our policy was to give our students two stars and a wish – two things the student did well and something they could improve on.

I recently found my purple fountain pen and decided to give it to my dear friend Helen who continues to teach at my old school. I passed the baton of positivity on to her because I didn’t think I needed it any more.

Then this morning my daily reading described what the author called a red pen lady. I well remember red pen people in my life, pages of school work covered with red marks which pointed out my poor spelling and use of apostrophes – I am fifty six and I still struggle with grammar and spelling – so all those red pen marks did improve my work – they just disillusioned me, in fact they were the marks which began the mantra which has played on repeat my whole life – I am not good enough.

This mantra has held me back as I have spoken it over everything I have ever done. The red pen people had completed their mission to point out my mistakes rather than see my potential.

But Jesus said; ‘speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you will all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind’. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (MSG)

During Lock down I have been reflecting on these words, on encouragement and its power and I have been praying that God would help me to be more and more encouraging in everything I do. I have become aware that this hasn’t always been the case and I am truly sorry for the times when I have been a red pen person.

Perhaps there is a red pen person in all of us, people who put as bright red circle around what is wrong in others, who point out the speck and fail to see the plank. Or like me there is the disillusioned person whose mantra ‘I am not good enough’ rings louder and louder in their ears with every red mark of the pen and who starts to allow the red marks define them.

Have you ever noticed how people can say a hundred positive encouraging things to you but it’s the one red negative comment that you hold onto, the word you tuck away and which returns day after day to reinforce your daily mantra – I’m not good enough.

Perhaps it’s time we put away our red pens and take up the purple pen of positivity. The bible tells us over and over again how powerful our words are – so let us speak words of positivity over one another and see how they empower people, and when we come across a red pen person let us make the choice to not allow the red pen to break us – let it motivate us, let us choose to use these words of red to make us more productive, and never, never allow them to destroy us.
I pray that we would all have a blessed day sowing purple words of power and positivity over our worlds.