Sunday, September 20, 2009

Words do matter...

Words without thoughts never to heaven go. William Shakespeare

Jesus said, "Out of the heart, the mouth speaks." Luke 6 He also said that we would have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word we have spoken. Matthew 12:36

I find that whenever I'm under stress, that is the time that I am most likely to make a careless comment. And, just as Jesus said, the things I say without thinking reveal my heart to myself and to others. My words signal whether I have stayed close to God or if I have spoken in my own flesh. They also signal what I've been thinking about or meditating about. They show where I am being conformed to Christ and where I need to repent and be more Christ-like.

Right now, our nation seems to be in a time of stress. It seems that the country is polarized about what direction our government should take. My purpose in this article is not to comment about the political situation. It's to point out that with emotions running high on both sides, we -- as a nation -- could stand to mind our thoughts and watch our words.

As someone who studied journalism in college, I'm not excited about the state of the media right now. Fewer people are turning to written media, and more are getting their news from TV, talk radio, and the Internet. So many of these sources have become so openly biased one way or the other. While we expect editorials and talk shows to be opinion based, we expect hard news stories to be factual, well-researched, and presenting all points of view. Unfortunately, good news writing has given way to outright preaching of either a "left-leaning" message or a "centrist-to-right leaning" message.

It's great to stay informed about the events that are taking place right now. But, I'm finding that it's getting harder and harder to find the facts among the opinions. I'm also finding that I can watch only a small amount of TV news without it affecting my own thoughts and my own words for the worse.

Bloggers have a great opportunity to bring calmness into this national debate. We can choose to write about things that are true, as well as things that build up rather than tear down. Yet, I have read many blogs and many comments on blogs that are vitriolic. Many in the blogosphere use mean, condescending, and foul language. Perhaps, we all forget at times that there is a real person with real feelings behind every blog and behind every comment, and we take liberties when we shouldn't. It's just as wrong to be cruel on the Internet as it is to be mean to someone in person.

That's one reason why I enjoy reading the blogs that you, my lovely readers, write. Most of us in this corner of the blogosphere chat about things such as home, family, thrift, and other useful, practical things. I can count on your blogs to be uplifting and encouraging. I liken reading your blogs to walking through a beautiful garden in the middle of a crowded, dirty, sooty city. Your blogs are spots of peace, beauty, and practicality in the midst of the busy information highway.

Our country has been through times of tumult before, and I'm sure we'll pass through this one soon. In the meantime, we can do much to uphold high standards of speech and writing.

Here are a few ideas:

1) Be careful about picking up "facts' or "news" on the Internet and repeating it without doing some research of your own. Internet stories spread rapidly. Many are written by PR specialists (I know, because that's my field) or by people who want to promote a business, a philosophy, or a political point of view. Many are quickly written and few are checked by editors. Many are not intended to be factual, but are openly based in someone's opinion. That's not to say that we can't glean and share valuable information from the net. It is to say, however, that we need to use caution when repeating something, just as we would exercise the same restraint about news we heard from our neighbor over the back fence.
2) Run the things you listen to, say, read, and write through the filter of Phil. 4:4-8. Is this true? Is it noble? Is it lovely? Is it of good report?
3) If you read an article which has received a number of heated comments, you might want to leave a polite, well-thought out comment of your own. It's possible that your sweet influence will permeate a web site and encourage others to be thoughtful about their words. On the other hand, realize when it would be counter=productive to enter into a discussion.
4) Choose your news sources wisely. Be aware if that source has a particular bias and take that into account when analyzing the news you receive from that source.
5) Take note of when you, yourself, are tired, hungry, stressed, upset by something you heard or read, bothered by something said to you in person, or otherwise are feeling out of sorts. Times like these are when you most need to give extra prayer and thought to the things you say in person and the things you write on your blog.
6) Love your enemies! Do good to those who mistreat you! The news media and fellow bloggesr are not your enemies. However, if you keep firmly in mind the principle of doing good to others, even when you disagree violently with them, you can respond to people and situations with love, gentleness, and respect.
7) Know what you believe and why you believe it. This, too, will help you speak respectfully and thoughtfully to those who may have a different point of view than you do. Focus on discussing the issue, rather than attacking individuals.

Most of all, keep your words sweet...
You never know which ones you'll have to eat!



Kathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathy said...

What a great post.

As someone who enjoys reading about politics, your ideas were spot on.

During these times it's been vital to remind myself where my citizenship truly is.