I received an email a few days back from an acquaintance. It was a forward, of course, of a message that had gone out to “reassure evangelical Christians” about recent endorsements from well-known figures within our faith community for Donald Trump. The theme, repeated over and over again, was that God is opening the door for us to hire a thug.
No, the word “thug” was never used. That would be too startling and upsetting. No, this is a direct quote:
Maybe God is trying to tell us something important- that now is not the time for a “nice Christian guy” or a “gentleman” or a typical Republican powder puff. Maybe now is the time for a natural born killer, a ruthless fighter, a warrior.
And some of you who are reading this might agree. That’s your choice.
I’ve heard all of the arguments in favor of the position taken in this recent email, including those “supported” by the Bible. I find it disquieting that none of that comes within the perspective of John 3:16.
I suppose all I’m saying here is that we live in a country where we have a lot of freedom, including that of voting for anyone we choose. Exercise that freedom.
I would also ask that you exercise that freedom in what you communicate. Please don’t dress up a thug in his Sunday suit and try to pass him off as God’s answer. Don’t pretend he’s representing our values when every other statement he makes screams otherwise.
Your choice this election year is a challenge. Vote. Support whichever candidate you believe will be the best President. But don’t use God as an excuse for your choices.
There is a moment almost every day when I pause. Calm is about me. My mind is clear. And then, suddenly, but not without warning, I am pushed into the busy current of life and I see so much rushing by. Most often my urge to join that stream of action propels me forward in my life’s plan. But sometimes, whether from panic or a realization of how little energy reserve is available, I’m simply pulled out and away, another victim of a rip tide.
I know full well what I should do. Not unlike the strategies of a swimmer facing the strong fingers of an ocean’s rip tide, I should keep my head, check my bearings, and move in parallel with the path of intention I was suddenly snatched from. At some point, I will leave the influence of those things rushing by and be able to focus on where I should be and what I should be doing.
Too often these emotional and practical rip tides of the soul tear us away from what we know and what nurtures us in such a violent way that we lose hope of ever finding our way back. When those times come, when we feel ourselves pulled into the boiling sea of worry, anxiety, and busyness, we should take a momentary detour to realign ourselves with the shoreline where we can stand and navigate freely.
And, when our personal will and resolve are spent, we should take the hands of those who reach out to pull us to safety . . . if, for no other reason, to deepen our opportunity to be the one reaching out tomorrow.
When times get tough, we often turn to the words of a poet or a balladeer to give us hope, to soothe our angst, and sometimes, to crank us up. Many paint only a picture of an ideal. . . in essence, a dream. John Lennon gave us that in “Imagine.” Imagining away religion, patriotism, hunger and competition seemed to smooth away all of the ugliness of the world. After all, “with nothing to kill or die for” we certainly would live better lives, wouldn’t we? Imagine such a world as that.
image: Jean-Frederic Fortier/unsplash.com
If I’ve just trashed your favorite song of all time, please stay with me for a minute.
In the later verses of the song, John Lennon writes of bringing the world together and sharing the wealth of the world. While we can dream of a time when that would happen, the writer makes it unlikely by entrusting that exercise to humankind without a higher power.
A dream of that magnitude requires a vision and definite action. While dreams can burn softly like candles, only true vision fueled by process can ignite the fires that bring change and progress. Our prolific Beatle has a point here. Too often, action and progress, framed only in mortal idealism, give way to greed, lust, and attempts at domination. Imagine if there was none of that.
But that same action and progress, when formed in the image of One who is greater, brings about what Lennon is really seeking . . . Heaven on earth.
Imagine walking side by side with that One. Imagine sharing and building together. Imagine loving each other as God loves each of us. At the very least, it gives us something to “die for.”
It seems more and more I find myself with a lot to say, but find no words that are adequate.
photo credit: Danielle McInnes/unsplash.com
I’ve experienced this for years when facing the loss of a loved one or a friend. Even the words that are true and right just don’t seem to express my feelings at a given moment. And so I sit in silence. Or perhaps I repeat the same neutral, void-filling phrase over and over again.
Other life events bring similar moments. When a friend or family member makes choices with less than positive circumstances . . . when a friend or family member ignores what I said when I had something to say . . . when . . . when things I have previously said have hurt or isolated or angered another — even when my words were absolutely correct.
Sometimes there is no event, no particular moment. Sometimes words can’t impact the most glorious of spontaneous, non-history-making instants. Sometimes . . .
I suppose the point is this,
How much time do you invest in your choice of words? If you’re like me, you really want to get them right the first time — and you are a little impatient if you have to repeat them. We want to be known as effective communicators.
Yet, what are the rights words? We have to judge the moment . . . and the audience . . . and the culture . . . and the impact of the eventual soundbite that will be distilled from what we say.
And, for most of our communications, this all must be done at the speed of sound.
In this mini-series on “NEAT Communication,” we are looking at the four elements that set us apart as excellent communicators: Necessary, Effective, Accurate, and Timely. One element, without consideration of the other three, can be devastating to our meaning. The effectiveness of what we say or attempt to convey is part of a broader package.
To be truly effective, ask yourself these three questions before speaking (or writing a text or email). It’s an easy exercise with dramatic potential.
- Have I “listened to the end?” A major detractor to effective communication is our failure to fully hear the other side of a conversation. Don’t worry so much about when you can jump in. Pause. Reflect. If you’re not certain, ask curious questions.
- Do I want to nurture conversation or simply end it? Chances are, if you are wanting to end a conversation, your choice of words may be effective for that purpose. However, similar to the “win at all costs” approach to life, the lingering aura of negativity will limit your present relationships as well as those that will be preempted by your reputation. Respond in a way that keeps the conversation viable, even if you must interrupt it in the moment. Choose words that convey your thoughts in clear, but non-threatening language. A phrase that threatens only escalates the conflict.
- If I repeat what I am about to say, will it have the same meaning that I intended in the first moment? When confronted with their own hasty words, people often reply, “That’s not what I meant!” That sentence is not particularly effective, because it’s too late. (See the upcoming post on Timely.) After pausing and reflecting, speak slowly. Don’t be afraid of a little silence as you craft your meaning. If the other person is impatient, ask them for a moment to make your words right. In most cases, the first meaning assigned to your communication is the one that will survive.
Choice of words is a mixture of knowledge and wisdom. Words do matter and the right words will set you apart — and save your relationships and your reputation.