the importance of language

I am a firm believer that the language we use (verbally or in our thoughts) greatly affects our beliefs, attitude and our character.  This certainly shows up in using profanity.  Growing up, as many teens and young adults do, I used quite a bit more profanity than I do now.  I can attest that when using that language (again, verbally or in thoughts) affected me internally and I’m sure it affected others around me as well.

Outside of profanity, though, I think the way we phrase our thoughts can affect our view of others quite significantly.  We all know that we are called to not judge others.  When we’re cut off while driving, however, and we say to ourselves “what a jerk!”, isn’t that placing a judgement on that person?  The problem with this is that we’re defining that person as a jerk.  They’re a person just like we are, but saying that “jerk” defines their being takes away their ability to be anything but that (to us).  This is all in our heads, but it affects how we view that person and probably affects the amount of forgiveness we’re willing to offer.

In that same instance, if we say to ourselves “that was rude”, we’ve judged the action and not the person.  That specific action can be judged and we’ve never been told that we can’t judge the actions of others.  In using this change in phrasing, we’ve spared this person from being judged a specific way and have left the door open for them to redeem themselves.

Jesus did not just say things to his disciples and followers without a very specific purpose that we need to pay close attention to.  In this case, by focusing on not judging that person, we can love them much more easily.  We have all heard the phrase, “Hate the sin, not the sinner”.  This is putting that into practice.

Think how much more important that language is when we’re talking directly to that person.  They’ll probably be a lot more defensive if you say that they ARE rude rather than saying an action of theirs was rude.  Put yourself in their shoes and you’ll easily see the difference.  If it’s directed at you, you’ll probably want their forgiveness for your action rather than being equally upset at them for having misjudged you, right?  We should offer the same consideration to everyone else by speaking more carefully.

We all (at least most of the time) say things without having fully thought them through beforehand.  Sure, some comments get more reflection before being blurted out than others, but most of the time we just go ahead and speak.  This is where awareness of ourselves comes into play.  We need to be aware of what we say (or are about to say) so that we can speak properly and phrase our statements in the most loving manner.  At first it will be a matter of looking back at our failings and working to get better, but before long we’ll be thinking these things through on the fly…and hurting far fewer feelings in the process!

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