Thursday, January 11, 2007

Complexity is everywhere....

This week I have experienced the complexity of words.
Words. How can such little bitty things have such power? In the hands of a word master they can either be a wonderful thing, or very destructive. And written words are a bigger problem, without nuances or body language to assist the reader. Words can uplift, or they can hurt. Badly. The same sentence can be interpreted in multiple ways...totally distorting the intent of the author/speaker. It's just that with the spoken word the contextual clues - the tone of the voice, and the facial expressions of the speaker, assist with understanding. With written words you cannot asses how you are being perceived. Emoticons don't help. You can use a smiley or winking emoticon to mask a catty remark. Words can hurt. And we don't even realize it. Misunderstanding is the bane of the Internet. Not that this is a new problem - letters have been written forever. It's just a symptom of a society in a hurry, dashing off an e-mail here or there, expounding or ranting on a blog...we don't think through the consequences of what we say. Or if we do - shame on us. How easy it can be to manipulate, to play on emotions. I think IM's are even worse - in responding quickly, in jest, in sarcasm, in whatever way we would talk to another if face to face, we say things that come across wrong. I sent a quick response this week, and realized a second later how snotty it sounded.

Words are complex - check out this article. It's long, but you'll get the point in the top section:
The Power of Words

So, words are tools. Words are weapons. And that article was basically referring to spoken word. Add in the complexity of the written word and it's pretty scary.

"Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!"

A strong horse can be controlled by the bit in its mouth. Likewise, a large ship can be turned by a small rudder. Both of these are small, but extremely important. Words can have tremendous power, for either good or evil.
And the tongue is a fire...The fire of the tongue has been used to burn many. Children are told sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. But that child’s rhyme isn’t really true. The bitter pain of a word spoken against us (intentional or not) can hurt us for a lifetime, long after a broken bone has healed. What others say to us and what we say to others can last a long time. The casual sarcastic or critical remark can inflict a lasting injury on another person. In the words of Smokey the Bear, "only you can prevent forest fires."
Proverbs speaks of the person who doesn’t consider the destructive power of his words. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “I was only joking!” (Proverbs 26:18-19)

Things to ponder:

The well-timed encouragement or compliment can inspire someone for the rest of their life.

Every word has three explanations and three interpretations.
(an old proverb)

Words are like bees, they have honey and a sting.
(an old proverb)

To talk without thinking is to shoot without aiming.
(an old proverb)

We need to try to read our emails and/or blogs as our recipient may see it. Before we send it. We may be able to avoid potential misunderstandings and inappropriate comments. Those of us who don't think of consequences as we write have to understand how we may inadvertently cause pain.

Oh that we would remember our words are powerful. The words we speak and the words we listen to. The words we write. They touch our lives and they touch the lives of others more than we know.

Um....just because I'm ruminating on this today doesn't mean I am thinking of any of you specifically. Nope. Just pondering. Please keep commenting and emailing! LOL


GoteeMan said...

That is so very true... Kim and I are teaching our children that the only real BAD words are the ones that cut, hurt and destroy others. They amaze us sometimes at their insight at ages 7 and 10, and their compassion for others...


A said...

"Where words are many, sin is not absent." Proverbs ???

Yeah, try being a pastor/preacher. We use words a lot and a lot of them. It scares me to think of all the ways I've been misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misheard in the last 10 years and the hurt that I may have inadvertantly caused without intending to.