Word choice

According to a Google search, there are approximately 600,000 words in the English language. These words are the tools we use to communicate to one another, not only in the moment, but also into the future through written and digital form. How well do we use these tools?

The language at my new company is, indeed, different. Yes, I do expect differences in the normal business functions context.  I also expect all the acronyms companies love to generate or repurpose for their own use. Yet I noticed during orientation, one team member talking would thank another team member who was assisting in communicating links to various company websites being mentioned. The specific wording used was: “I appreciate you.” I was fascinated by this saying, especially since I heard it several times during orientation, as well as a few times by my own team members to one another. Reflecting on my own speech, I would normally say, “I appreciate that,” meaning the action that a person did for me. By saying “I appreciate you,” the acknowledgement is on the person, not the action. Wow! How powerful is that?

Another unique phrase I’ve come across in my new company is “cordially required.” The word cordial has its root in Latin word for heart. Originally the word conveyed heartfelt or deep sincerity. The word is used now to convey warmth and welcome. Usually, one is cordially invited to an event. While these company invitations are not to be declined, its use does, however, still convey warmth and welcome. I don’t look at something I’m “cordially required” to attend with the same outlook as I would consider a “mandatory” meeting at my old company. Using the word cordially to explain the meeting type gives me the opportunity to review other meetings that may be scheduled at that time and make this one my priority. A mandatory meeting makes me feel I need to clear my calendar and indicates I will be instructed in that meeting and perhaps penalized if I don’t attend. I don’t even want to refer to something “cordially required” as a meeting, but rather as an event, one in which I am a participant. 

If these two instances of word usage have made an impact on me in the few weeks I’ve been at the company, how much more can we do as Christians and as Catholics to convey to others that we see Christ in them? And it’s not only in speaking, but our writing, which includes our texting and posting to social media? Do we ever pause and think about the potential damage our words can do to others, or the effect our words can have on their perception of Christians if they know our religion? Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh and His words brought healing to many. Our words may not bring the healing that Jesus’ did, however, they can bring comfort, companionship, and counsel to those we encounter. 

Words are what we also use to communicate with God. We order our thoughts and petitions through the words we use. While it can be comforting to use memorized prayers like the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, they do not provide us a pass to let our minds wander while reciting the words. Memorized prayers are meant to focus our concentration more deeply on God, allowing us to explore the mystery of God in ways we haven’t thought of previously. Praying is meant to open our spiritual ear to hear God speaking to us. We need to listen to what we say when we pray and mean what we say. If we pray for the right words to use in difficult situations, we then need to listen to hear what words we need to use. If we pray for the knowledge of how our words are perceived, let us also pray for the wisdom and grace to change how we speak so that we can be more Christ-like. 

We have over a half million words to choose from, let us choose wisely so that our words reflect the positive love of Christ to all who hear and read them.

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