A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Seasoning Our Words With Love

Posted on: May 26, 2014

Then Elihu said:

“Hear my words, you wise men,

and give ear to me, you who know;

for the ear tests words

as the palate tastes food.”

~ Job 34:1-3*

I mentioned in a recent post about being stressed out by some harsh e-mails I’d received. Between the words themselves and the use of bold type for entire sentences, I felt angry and hurt and small.

It wasn’t that I felt the sender had no right to offer an opinion. It was the way that opinion was expressed—with no concern for whether those words might hurt my feelings.

Those messages brought home the truth of Proverbs 15:

A soft answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger. (v. 1)

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,

but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (v. 4)

It seems the expression, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” often isn’t applied to our electronic communications. How often do we see unkind comments on news items or blog posts that harshly criticize the subject of the news story or the blogger, as well as that person’s actions or opinions?

The freedom the Internet gives us to speak our minds can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the web offers an amazing forum for expressing our beliefs and opinions and sharing our creativity; on the other hand, it offers us another opportunity to weigh in on the validity or value of others’ beliefs, opinions and creative works—and the way we use that opportunity isn’t always positive. Sometimes we treat screen names as a licence to speak our minds without filtering our words.

I know it’s a challenge to find ways to emphasize words or set the tone of e-mails and things we post online; sometimes I really miss tools like tone of voice and body language, and even short messages can take longer to write than I might like. But it’s worth the effort to avoid bluntly worded messages that simply dismiss another person’s ideas or, worse yet, feel like a slap in the face to the reader.

When we send e-mails, comment on blogs, or post messages on social media, I pray that we would remember to show our love for our neighbour through our words, in the spirit of Proverbs 15:23:

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,

and a word in season, how good it is!

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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