Monday, January 26, 2009

Word Power

My daughter asked me what I was writing during church. She was astute enough to know that it was too productive to be sermon notes. So I told her. I had written that I am too quick to "write people off". She agreed with me, much to my embarrassment. She even gave an example where I spoke frankly about a nutty neighbour, months before she became a member of the condominium board. I still do privately think of her as nutty, but it does turn out she also is an outstanding parking coordinator, resolving several disputes in a very short time. We'd had a cold snap, you see, and everyone hustled to find their spot to plug in the car. More than one resident thought they had the same spot. Our newest board member sorted them out, literally within days, nipping in the bud a whole lot of ill feeling. I grudgingly agreed with my daughter that I had been too quick in my assessment.

This morning I woke up thinking of the power of words, especially written words. I'm marking history with my own perspective and flavor. Mine will hold sway simply because it's recorded. Private thoughts influence us for a time. Privately shared words influence our neighbours, and often have lasting effects we did not intend (the power of gossip). But the written word, oh the power! I am reminded days, weeks, or years later how I saw my world. Written words are more definite, like gospel. I can weave for myself new realities that will be harder to refute. Written word acts like truth. I have to remember, though, that it is not. Truth stands on it's own.

So this is what I wrote during the sermon yesterday, completely unrelated to the pastor's topic. He was not that boring, really. He spoke convincingly of how special interest groups impose on Jesus their own idea of what a Messiah would look like. They are all wrong.

Back to those private notes. I write off people too often and too fast. I must speak up sooner, articulate the offence, and forgive quickly.

Why do I do that? It is a habit from childhood, when my "elders" or the "dominant" or the "other sex" in the room declared themselves the experts and proceeded to work on whatever needed fixing. I had the answer, but I was re-inforced, often, that my opinion did not count. I quickly figured out that it was more efficient to say nothing. The better lesson was to wait for the failure. Then I would step in with the fix. People learn faster from their failures than from preaching anyways.

But I think also I've done a disservice to my colleagues. I could have potentially saved them from embarrassment and a whole bunch of wasted time. I could have lifted them up from the first and helped them look better.

So, now, the power of writing this down takes effect. I cannot pretend I did not get this lesson this week. Let's see how well I put it in to practice.
The photo I borrow from Concurring Opinions, a general-interest legal blog operated by Concurring Opinions LLC, a Pennsylvania Limited Liability Corporation.