“No, hold on” was a phrase repeated many times this morning. A simple phrase, easily understood right? Not really. Those three little words had two meanings this morning and which one you chose to listen to depended on which end of the dental floss you happened to be holding.
Dental floss holds a strange attraction for our children. If they can get their hands on it you can rest assured 25 feet of minty, waxed thread will be laying all over the house. Today they were using it as rope to lead each other around. The problem? My son wanted his eldest sister to wait until he had all the floss out of the container before she grabbed a hold. She wanted to take the available end right then and there. So ‘hold on’ for him meant wait a minute; ‘hold on’ for her meant hold on.
That simple miscommunication led to a mini-conflict. I say mini-conflict because my son soon realized the mistake he had made and quickly corrected it. “No, not hold on like that, hold on like wait a minute.” His sister then understood what he wanted her to do and released the floss until he finished unraveling it. They each grabbed an end and were off to the races so to speak.
This is not the first time a poor choice of words has led to frustration, fighting and hurt feelings. I am often plagued with open mouth – insert foot. I’m a straight shooter, I know what I mean (and it is certainly not to hurt someone’s feelings) but my words confuse my intent. I used to think ‘Well that’s just who I am, take it or leave it’. Shockingly, people choose to leave it more often than not. I have damaged more than one budding friendship, and have caused others to stay at arm’s length, by my poor choice in phraseology.
My husband however, is a man of very little words and you know exactly what he means when he speaks. You see, he chooses his words very carefully; often thinking about what he wants to say for days before addressing a matter. This too has its problems.
“A praying mantis won’t eat other praying mantises because they are the same size,” is not the same thing as “A praying mantis won’t each other praying mantises if they are the same size.” Yet another example that caused a complete breakdown in productivity this week. One word caused an otherwise good moment to be filled with frustration (as my son tried over and over to get me to understand what he meant), fighting (as mom continually tried to “correct” his wrong assertion) and hurt feelings (as my son increasingly felt like I just wasn’t listening to him). It took almost five minutes to clear up the confusion and make things right.
James tells us that a man who cannot control his tongue makes his religion worthless. We are warned that the tongue is a fire that destroys and that no man can tame it. Again, we are told to be quick to listen and slow to speak. There are many more admonishes in scripture about our speech and they are worthy of consideration as we try to teach our children to choose their words carefully.
Foundational to this is to instruct our children in what God has to say about our speech obviously. But, we also need to teach our children proper meaning of words, sentence structure and grammar. It really does matter.
1. The faculty of uttering articulate sounds or words, as in human beings; the faculty of expressing thoughts by words or articulate sounds. Speech was given to man by his Creator for the noblest purposes.
2. Language; words as expressing ideas. The acts of God to human ears cannot without process of speech be told.
3. A particular language, as distinct form others. Ps. 19.
4. That which is spoken; words uttered in connection and expressing thoughts. You smile at my speech.
5. Talk; mention; common saying. The duke did of me demand, what was the speech among the londoners concerning the French journey.
6. Formal discourse in public; oration; harangue. The member has made his first speech in the legislature.
7. Any declaration of thoughts. I, with leave of speech implor'd, repli'd.
SPEECH, v.i. To make a speech; to harangue. [Little used.]
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” – Proverbs 21:23