I’m a lover of words. As a writer, I use them every day. As a librarian, I am overwhelmed to think of how many words surround me on a daily basis. However, I don’t just take in words visually, but audibly as well, listening to the radio, news, my staff or friends.
Words are forever in the air.
Words serve different purposes, and how we use them can either build others up or tear them down. In this increasingly interconnected society, words carry new weight.
In days gone by, what someone declared across the ocean had no bearing on those far away. Now, we know within a few seconds what a leader has spoken or tweeted, and it impacts the globe.
What we many times forget, however, is that the meaning of a word to us will be significantly different to others. Having lived in other countries and among other cultures, I learned a lesson about this early on, that I’m finding is important to apply in my own “familiar” surroundings today.
When I hear something from another person, I need to ask: “What do you mean by that word?” Or, “what does that word mean to you?”
With the simple act of asking instead of responding, I build a bridge instead of a wall, allowing the conversation to continue and understanding to gain the upper hand. Gaining understanding doesn’t mean agreement, but it does allow for a wider margin of grace to be made available. Keeping the door open allows for the Holy Spirit to then work through the effort to communicate ideas.
We are so quick to judge another’s words based on our understanding of what they mean. Even if we learn that we still disagree, we’ve shown them that we’re willing to listen, to talk through the subject, which offers opportunity to share our own views as well.
God can do a lot when a person is willing to listen. They may not change in that moment, but they will remember that a Christ follower was willing to listen and thus soften in their preconceived ideas toward us and the God we serve.
Do the words you use mean what you intend them to, or is someone hearing them through the lens of their own worldview? Take time to explain what you mean with kindness, grace, love and gentleness, then listen to what they say. You’ll be surprised at the response.
Words are a powerful tool. Use them wisely.
Grace and Peace
*Quote from The Princess Bride movie, 1987.