Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sharp or curative words?

Our words - some short and sweet, others longer and rich with meaning - all are still words until they are spoken or heard.  In the speaking, meaning can be conveyed - simply by inflection, the combination of words spoken together, or the circumstances in which they are voiced.  In hearing, a totally different meaning can be interpreted - based upon the hearer's frame of mind, how emotional charged the moment is, or the complexity of demands being placed on the hearer at that moment.  Since there are all these "interference" points where words can become something totally different than what we intended to convey, it is even more important to learn how it is we use our words!


Sharp words cut like a sword, but words of wisdom heal. (Proverbs 12:18 CEV)

Words bring death at one time, but almost similarly spoken, they bring life at another. What has occurred is the mixing of the speaking and hearing components - and whatever life has placed between the two.  In the midst of stressful circumstances, they could be taken as a poisonous gas - bringing devastation in their midst.  In the midst of a more relaxing moment of reflection and sharing, they might be similarly spoken, but they can be heard quite differently - as healing balm.  Simply put, sharp word terminate in a "point", just as a knife does.  What is the purpose of the knife's point?  Is it not to puncture or pierce?  Words which merely "make a point" may have this damaging effect. They may not be "bad" words to speak, but just as one does not walk around the kitchen with a knife pointed outward when others are around, so we should not be "careless" with the words we speak.

Sharp words often are like "switchbacks" on a mountain slope.  Unexpectedly, you find yourself changing course, and quite quickly, sometimes without warning.  There is a "cut-back" effect with these words.  They turn around on the speaker as quickly as they were spoken.  In effect, this is how arguments ensue.  We turn the words around to return them to the speaker, just as we heard them - switching them back in a sharp twist of meaning.  In short order, we are engaged in hostile strikes against each other - all without intent or planned purpose.  In music, a sharp is a "sound above the true pitch".  The true meaning of the words is lost because they are interpreted as a sound above the true pitch of the conversation!

Community is made all the harder because communication must happen if there is to be real communion.  All these have a similar root - common.  We cannot dwell in community if we are not concerned with the common good.  We cannot engage in meaningful and purposeful communication without learning the value of communicating in a way which is valuable to what we share in common at that moment.  We interfere with real and lasting communion whenever we don't respect the common values, needs, and "space" of others. In essence, we really need to count on being wise in our choice of words - because words can destroy community, shut down communication, and permanently disrupt communion.

Curing or healing words actually bring back health into community, restore communication pathways, and encourage a place for mutual communion.  Wisdom seeks peace - not because we "control" the peace - but because peace dwells within us first and is exuded through us in the very words we choose to speak (and in those we choose to withhold).  A cure is only needed because there has been a "disease" at work.  Sharp words actually damage healthy relationship - a "disease" of sorts is allowed to permeate our sense of common good and we are left with putrefying inner conflict.  Remembering sharp words are not always spoken as "sharp", but can be interpreted as such, we must also be quite sensitive to all the other factors which "shape" our words.  A wise person learns to read the circumstances, listen to the emotion, feel the "charge" in the air.  

Curative words are soothing to the damaged relationship - bringing insight which uncovers true intent (true pitch).  Since this is such a complex process, we need insight into our words which we don't often possess on our own.  Perhaps this is why Jesus sends his disciples out with the instruction to "not take thought about what they are to speak" when times of conflict come, accusations are flying, and "charges" are made about them. Instead, they are to rely upon the Holy Spirit to give them wisdom into the words to speak.  We don't always know the right timing - so we need the wisdom of one who does. We don't always know the right words which will bring impact, but not pierce and destroy, but HE does.  Christ in us - our hope for curative words.  Just sayin!