A young boy loved baseball. His final game of the season wasn’t going too well. He was the “catcher.” With two down, the tying run on third and the go-ahead runner on second, the tension mounted. The batter hit a line drive down the third base line. The third baseman scooped up the ball and hurled it at the catcher. And then it happened — the ball spun out of the catcher’s glove and down on the ground. The catcher picked up the ball and let out a string of curses that would fry a preacher’s ears. The coach called him over and said, “Son, that’s far too strong a language for such a little ball.”
It seems to me people are using far too strong a language for such common events. Crude, vulgar profanity finds its way into many conversations. For the majority it is just a habit—the lazy man’s way of trying to communicate. Think of words as the palette of paint in the hands of the artist. He uses a wide spectrum of colours to give expression to the picture that is in his mind. There are few great artists who paint monochromatic pictures. Even the Impressionists blended multiple colours together to convey their ideas.
So, what sort of picture are you painting with your words?
Honour or Dishonour
Your words can drag a person into the mud or remove the tarnish with a bit of polish. In other words, do I want to make you look bad, ugly and despicable or do I want to present you in the best possible way?
A number of years ago I made a list of positive character qualities. I then wrote out the negative expressions of the positive qualities. Let me give you a few. A person who is acutely alert can also be very nosy. Their alertness may make them aware of the distress that is etched on your face. This will lead them to start probing for reasons that you are upset. Inside you are saying, “You are such a nosy person. Go mind your own business.” Their positive quality just got expressed in a negative way. How are you going to paint them?
Those of us who were addicts of Charles Shulz’s Peanuts cartoon might remember Charlie Brown’s argument with Lucy. Charlie Brown accused Lucy of being stubborn. Lucy objected and said she was tenacious. So what colour will you paint the person, who in the midst of great adversity, won’t let go of their dream? Or the person who argues against all reason that their point of view is right? You can paint them with the negative brush of stubbornness or the more lively colour of tenacity.
What words do you use to describe the person who sits there looking into space? They could be called “space cadets” or “lacking a full deck of cards”? Or we could see a creative idea that is circulating in their brain. Who knows the great invention or thrilling story that will emerge?
We have all been hammered with the outspoken, brutal bluntness of the “wet blanket” of the party. That is the one who has the word “avoid” written on their forehead. Stop and think, would you rather a person gave you the hard, cold facts, or painted a picture of non- reality? The honest person may need to learn tact but at least you know you are getting the honest truth.
We all know the meticulous, over-particular perfectionist. That is the person we like to leave out of the picture. They bog us down with detail and leave our mediocre job in the garbage. But who wants a slap-happy, “that’s good enough” surgeon? I want him to be neat and orderly. I don’t want his scalpel left in my stomach!
I think you get the picture. We can use words to paint a portrait of honour or we can choose words that depreciate the value of a person.
Let me leave you with one last thought: Words can be used to forge a bond. Often we choose our words to give us an identity with a group. If I want to be known as a tough, bold, fearless, macho person, I will use words to convey that image. If I want to be known as a forward-thinking, self-made person, I will adopt a language that portrays that. But what if I want to be a common ordinary “Joe” who sees value in people and wants to stimulate others to love and good works? Then I will choose words that encourage, uplift, affirm and motivate people to keep pressing for a higher standard.
The paint brush is in your hand. The colours are all before you. You choose the picture you are going to paint: a master piece that inspires; or a portrait that degrades.