Words!

from Rev. Bruce Wood - August 2016

Published in News First — our monthly church newsletter  

Sometimes we make mistakes, and when we do, we see the best and the worst of the people around us.  We may become the target of words that are very pushy and demanding - or maybe we hear words that are helpful and supportive.

Words can be riveting, and encouraging, and enchanting - and - they can also be threatening, and intimidating, and menacing.  They can bring us together - and just as easily, they can break us apart.  They can protect us against violence - and just as easily, they can provoke hostility.  They can forge strong connections - and just as easily, they can tear relationships apart.

For most of us, words are one of the fundamental ways in which we communicate with other people - and to some extent, we become the words that we speak.  They are essential to our person - something we all have, and something we can use in whichever way we choose. 

Over the past few years some have shifted away from having in-person conversations, to using email, or Face book, or Twitter as our primary means of communication.  But somewhere in that shift, we seem to have lost the significance, and the meaning, to many of our words. 

I’m sure that we have all sent emails that have upset other people - and have received them as well - and I’m reasonably sure that if we’d have had a direct conversation with that person, then there would not have been so much of a problem.  However, it is much harder to convey emotions and intentions with written words on a screen, than it is sitting opposite someone and being engaged in a conversation.

As with any communication, when words are misunderstood, or mistranslated there can be a deal of confusion, or angst created. 

For example, apparently skiers - and their ski-boots - were making lots of noise after hours in an Austrian hotel, so the proprietors posted a sign which asked people - "Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension”.  Or in a hotel in Athens a sign instructed -  “Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9am and 11 am. daily”.  And an advertisement for a Hong Kong dentist proposed that -  "Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists".

In Christian speak, Jesus is known as the Word - ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth.’

During his ministry, Jesus put himself on the line day after day after day - his every word and his every action was dissected and analysed by the religious leaders of his day.  He was under scrutiny everywhere he went - but he also had plenty to say. 

On one occasion a large crowd was following him, and so he stopped to teach them, and was targeted with severe criticism for doing so.  His response was not to defend his comments, or to take offence, or to go off in a huff - instead he chose to state his case.  He suggested that those who criticised him, could be recognised by their fruit - they would be known by their actions, and the quality of their work and their relationships.  Jesus suggested, that the mouth speaks, what the heart is full of.

The way we treat each other plays a vital part of our faith community - how we speak to each other, and what we say, become important to the whole of our community.

Each time we speak we have the possibility of changing the life of the person we are speaking to.  Do we use our words wisely?  Do they tear down - rather than build up?  Are they bitter, and harsh, and unforgiving - or do they foster respect, and grace, and compassion?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once uttered these wise words:

“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”.

Be gentle with your words, and mindful of the long lasting effect they can have on those around you.

            Peace, Rev. Bruce Wood