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Say what you mean

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With the presidential elections coming up, I am bombarded with so many campaign advertisements and news stories. Everywhere I turn the election is in my face. Of course I contemplate which candidate to vote for; however, I find myself also asking which one of the candidates I find most trustworthy, honest.

Politicians are usually stereotyped as dishonest. And sometimes it is hard for me to trust their silver-tongued promises, especially during hard times like now with our poor economy. I need actions to prove their words. Promise to act is not enough. Why?

This could be because of my reflection of politics. However, digging deeper, I find myself in general trusting words less. Distrusting a stranger’s words might be normal, but distrusting of seemingly trustworthy friends’ words is not as normal. I am not trying to say that I distrust my friends. I think a better way to state it is, I distrust the way that people, including me, sometimes use language.

I have noticed there are moments when people tend to exaggerate. When friends tell each other stories, it becomes natural to exaggerate how long a trip was, how painful a needle shot was. Friends want to make the stories interesting, worthwhile.

I have also heard how people use the word ‘love’ and ‘hate’ as words of exaggeration.

“Oh god, I hate that girl,” one friend says to me.

But whenever anyone uses such an extreme word such as ‘hate,’ I wonder if they really mean ‘hate’ or merely ‘dislike.’ Most times, we do not consider the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’ as extreme words and use it carelessly.

The exaggerating phrase ‘the worst’ is used quite often in our culture today.

“That was the worst!” is usually a phrase I overhear quite often.

I am also guilty in using that phrase, quite often actually. But it was a response from my mother that made me realize what those words truly mean.

“Really? You cannot think of anything else that was worse than that?” she asked me after I used that phrase when telling her about a midterm I took.

As a result, after the phrase escapes my lips, at least five other worse situations pop in my head now. And I usually regret it, because I am not saying what I mean, and others may misunderstand me.

I have observed moments when sarcastic language brought laughter, but there are many other times when it has been hurtful. I have many friends who really like using sarcastic language; I admit I also like to use sarcasm. However, I have seen times when our sarcastic tone was not picked up on, and our comments hurt our other friends. And even though we might apologize profusely, it is no use. The hurtful words have been said, and they cannot be taken back. No matter how much you may insist that the words had no truth in it, he or she will insist in their mind that those words would not have been said if there was no grain of truth. It hurts when you injure the people you love, and I usually curse my mouth for being so careless.

These are just a couple of examples of using language carelessly. I am not suggesting to completely eliminate exaggeration and sarcasm when we use language, because I do believe that they can be very useful tools in certain circumstances. However, I am proposing that people be careful with the ways they use language, especially those who are Christians.

A simple Internet search with “words Bible verses” brings up a plethora of results of biblical verses dealing with the power of words.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people with give account for every careless words they speak …” states Matthew 12:36 (English Standard Version).

As Christians, we are going to be held accountable in how we use our words. This should make us careful in how we talk with each other. Words can help build community or destroy it. We should take care of each other in every aspect including speech, building a strong body of Christ together.

Words have power. You do not need to be a Christian to believe that. I am sure that many have seen words build someone up and also tear someone down. Words alone have that scary power. We have all been equipped with that power, and we must all be wary of it. Because if we are careless with words, we might deeply wound someone. And the scary thing is that sometimes meaningful words, such as an apology, that may come after, does not erase the careless words and the inflicted wound. Therefore, we must treat words a little more carefully.

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