Saturday, September 12, 2009

words

Words can heal and words can hurt
Words can build and words can tear down
Words can create and words can destroy
Words can give hope and words can generate fear

How are you using your words today?

Many use words they don't understand only to look intelligent. Some use words to sound pious, but they don't believe them. Others use words as weapons, instead of building blocks. Be careful about the words you use and how you use them. The Bible says that a word fitly spoken is like "apples of gold in pictures of silver". But it also says "the tongue is a fire" and can be "full of deadly poison".

You have heard the phrase, "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me". That simply is not true. Words can destroy a person. Many times the hurt we cause comes from simple misunderstanding and ignorance. We may not realize that a particular word or phrase may hurt someone, usually because their life experiences are different than ours. We should be sensitive to this and adjust our speaking accordingly, especially with those we consider friends.

Sometimes we are careless and recklessly hurt with the words we use. In those cases we must apologize and seek to heal the breach. We are all human and make mistakes.That is part of life.

Sometimes in anger we use words to get reactions - like a grenade thrown into a crowd. There are words that are termed "gunpowder words", or inflammatory - their impact goes far beyond their literal meaning.

For instance, if you call someone a fascist or Nazi, there are many images that come to mind to accompany the words. There are specific definitions to the words, but you must be careful about applying them to current situations. The persons using them today are using them not to identify but to get a reaction (like squelching dissent or discussion).

This brings up the last problem with word usage today. Many use words to attack, belittle, ridicule, and tear down people, not just ideas. Especially when people are angry they strike out at others. When debate and discussion is not getting them the desired result -compliance with their opinion - they resort to fighting with words - name calling,etc.

We should all take a few deep breaths, think about what we are doing before we speak, and search our hearts and see if we really want to say those words. To paraphrase another Bible verse - "whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, think - and speak - on these things".

Consider your words carefully today. If you are purporting to be a follower of God, your words can either add to or detract from others vision of Him ,seen through your life.

Monday, September 7, 2009

the state of political discourse

Have you ever struck up a conversation with a stanger and then part-way in wished you hadn't? One where you found out the person shared a similar interest and you thought you could have a fun discussion of it, but realized you were miles apart on your views? And that they were deadly serious about being in the right?

I had that experience back in my singles' days. I was at a pre-Thanksgiving gathering and met a new person who mentioned that he liked politics. I was a poli sci major in college,so we began talking. I was in Arizona at the time and we had just had an election where a new governor was elected, in a three-way race. I had reservations about one candidate's commitment, and another's extreme political views, and so picked the third candidate, a woman with substantial career political experience who I thought would do just fine.

The moment I mentioned who I had voted for the conversation went off the cliff. In the view of the other person it was if I had committed a mortal sin. They , of course, had supported the extreme candidate, who won. I then spent the next 10-15 minutes (seemed like forever) trying to get out of the conversation. It has made me wary to this day to blindly start conversations on politics with strangers. It's not that I don't do it, nor that I only talk with people I know I will agree with. But I want to make sure that the person I talk to will be reasonable and have a conversation, not just rant if I happen to disagree with their position.

I think this is where the country is right now in political discourse. There is little conversation going on and much more ranting. The disagreements are framed in the context of name calling,inflammatory rhetoric, lack of common courtesy, and posturing. Some of the signs I have seen are shameful and many comments are not meant to contribute to better understanding - sought or shared - but as verbal bombshells meant to intimidate, shame, ridicule, or cut off discussion.

People need to watch what they say, not because"someone is listening" , but because words can hurt and common decency should lead us to care what other people think and feel,no matter who they are or what they believe.Too often people use words they do not understand or realize what they mean. For example, if someone says something is "un-American", they are saying that it is off limits, end of discussion. Or, if someone says something is "immoral" then further advocacy of the idea itself is seen as "immoral"and the person advocating it as "immoral". They may not intend for that to be so, but it is. How can you argue against an "un-American" or "immoral" idea?

In contrast ,when someone says that they believe something is wrong, you can ask"why" , and you can disagree if you like, saying "I believe it is right". It is an exchange of views and beliefs, not hard and fast "truths".You can agree to disagree without it becoming personal or judgmental. Unfortunately today that is not very evident - especially on health care. The "judges" and verbal bomb throwers have taken over, and ordinary citizens are either being seduced by it, or repulsed. And battle lines are drawn ,when building solutions needs to take place.
Heaven help us all.