Does Our Communication Reflect Our Christian Identity?

maskWho are you?

Whoever you are, does your vocabulary reflect your identity?

Or are you masquerading as someone you’re not?

 

Lately, I’ve been hearing Christians say things such as:

  • Sending good thoughts your way.
  • What’s your sign?
  • Sending you good vibes.
  • You’re so lucky!
  • Bad karma will get him.

But what are we communicating? Does our communication reflect our Christian identity? Do these phrases convey our relationship with the sovereign God? Are we proclaiming our trust in Him or in cosmic coincidences? Do we expect good thoughts and good vibes to substitute for the Holy Spirit in accomplishing His work?

You might think I’m making a big deal about something that’s insignificant. The words may not be significant, but what they illustrate is definitely important.

If we’re not careful, the world’s philosophies and values can influence us in ways we don’t realize. The process starts slowly, with a change in the way we think about our life and circumstances. Then it moves into our words, and finally our deeds.

We let down our guard in the little things, thinking they’re not important anyway. It’s just harmless fun, isn’t it? Besides, don’t we have to relate to unbelievers in order to share the gospel with them?

As someone taught me many years ago, bad influences and habits begin with a toe-hold in our life. Then they grasp a foot-hold. And finally, the thing that started out as a little harmless fun—something we thought we could control—is now a stronghold that controls us.

I’ve often wondered why some Christians feel as though they have to fit into the world before they can share Christ with the world. The solution is not to offer a weak copy of the world. Neither is it to beat up unbelievers with a fire-and-brimstone message of hell and damnation.

The answer is to be true to who we are in Christ, while forming sincere relationships. People need to hear about the Savior. If our words are merely an imitation of what they already know, how will they learn what they don’t know?

Let’s communicate the truth in love, giving others what they need instead of what they already have.


The More Things Change…

The more things change…

You know how to finish that statement, don’t you?

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Bear with me as I take an ever-so-brief detour through the history of writing. You’ll understand why in a moment or two…

Written communication began with symbols. These symbols, known as proto-writing, were not a word-for-word record of verbal communication. Rather, they were a series of symbols to represent simple nouns, verbs, ideas, or emotions. You may recall taking a history class where you studied photos of ancient cave drawings. Those crude pictures—pictographic hieroglyphics—evolved into cuneiform—symbols based on wedge shapes.

Eventually, alphabets and writing systems developed to record communication word-for-word. Alphabets formed words. Words formed sentences. Sentences were grouped into paragraphs. The point was to accurately represent oral communication. Handwriting developed into an art form and calligraphy flourished.

So why this history lesson now? Because, as the title of this post declares, the more things change, the more they do indeed remain the same.

Think about the changes in written communications today. Cursive handwriting is no longer taught in major school systems. The practice of texting has devolved words and sentences into collections of letters and numbers. For example, “see you later” has become “c u l8r.”

If that isn’t bad enough, our social media communications are increasingly bereft of words. Instead, they’re filled with smiley faces and hearts, thumbs-up, and thumbs-down. Emoticons picturing facial expressions. Emoji depicting everything from shoes to houses. No longer do we carefully search for the precise word to convey our thoughts and emotions. Now we string together a group of emoticons and emojis and call it communication. After thousands of years, we’ve advanced – or regressed – to cave drawings.

Emojis

Please don’t get me wrong. I use emoticons and emojis in my own social media posts. Still, let’s remember the importance of words. Precise words. The right word makes a huge difference in conveying ideas and emotions. Consider a word as general as walk. Good communicators won’t be content with walk. They will search for a word that conveys exactly what they are trying to communicate. They will search out words such as trudge, hike, stroll, march, saunter, stride, amble, trek, plod, dawdle, roam, tramp, tromp, slog, travel, stomp, sashay, glide, troop, wander, ramble, promenade, or traipse. Precise words help us communicate clearly.

Most of all, if we give up our appreciation for choosing particular words to convey specific meanings, we’ll fail to grasp the precision of God’s Word. For thousands of years, the Bible has described God’s nature and relationship with humanity in precise language. God values specific communication. There’s a reason Jesus is called the living Word. An emoticon or emoji isn’t enough to communicate all that He is and all that He did…and still does.

We need words for that. A smiley face just won’t do it.  🙂

What do you think?


Do You Know What I Know?

Everyone thought they knew Carly. Her family, her doctors, her therapists, even her twin sister.

Everyone was wrong.

Carly is a teenage girl with autism. For eleven years, her family loved and cared for her. They provided her with all the therapy she needed, but she experienced little, if any, progress in her rate of development. Despite 40+ hours of therapy per week, her family knew her as a mute girl whose physical habits of arm-flailing, head-banging, rocking, and tantrums indicated a severely developmentally disabled child—one whose intelligence level was significantly stunted.

The doctor who led Carly’s therapy program described her profile as “that of a child who was severely autistic and more than likely moderately mentally retarded.”

Until Carly “spoke” her first message using a computer keyboard.

Through the advantage of technology, she began communicating, first with her family, then with others. Her texted conversations revealed a Carly they did not know – and one who knew more than they thought. Her first message was “Hurt. Help.” Over the following three years, however, her conversations evolved to include fluent messages such as:

You don’t know what it feels like to be me, when you can’t sit still because your legs feel like they are on fire, or it feels like a hundred ants are crawling up your arms.

And

People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can’t talk.

And

I am autistic, but that is not who I am. Take time to know me before you judge me.

Carly’s dad described how he now views his daughter: “I stopped looking at her as a disabled person, and started looking at her as a sort of sassy, mischievous teenage girl.”

This problem of judging others based on their ability to converse does not only target the physically disabled. It’s easy to have negative opinions or low expectations of anyone who doesn’t communicate the way we do. We see it in the man with a Ph.D. who is clerking at the corner grocery store – no one will hire him in his field because he speaks with a strong accent. Or the painfully shy student in class who is judged “stupid” by her peers because she stutters when she speaks.

Whether we’re homeschooling children, teaching a Bible study class, or writing a book, how do we respond to our audience?

Writers are often counseled to “resist the urge to explain” – to communicate clearly and trust their audience to understand the subtleties of what they’re writing. Teachers are trained to use multiple teaching methods to reach all their students, whether those students have visual, auditory, or tactile learning styles.

Of course, not every person will be able to overcome their communication challenges the way Carly did.  But whether we are writing, teaching, or simply living alongside people from all ages and all walks of life, let’s make an effort to look past the stereotypes – past the accents, clothing styles, and even past physical quirks or disabilities. It’s a matter of respect for each individual. In doing so, we may discover we rarely know others as well as we think we do.

And we may be surprised to learn they know more than we thought.