When I was growing up, the word really meant, get this…really. As in: “it is really cold in here” or “I am really late”…it was kind of like a synonym for “very.” Nowadays, this one word conveys so much more. As in: mostly used in response to something annoying, and often coupled with an eye roll…try to picture this…”REALLY???” Depending on the tone, volume, facial expression, and context, this one word could be used to convey hurt, anger, disgust, suspicion, surprise, angst, frustration, hopelessness, etc. Wow. As a side note, thinking of this makes me a little sad for the state of our vocabulary these days, but I digress.
There are some issues to consider when we think of what we have done to communication by instituting shortcuts like this. Think of the people who speak English as a second language; I am sure “really” is more confusing than many of the longer idioms. What about people who have social deficits? About now, my husband would be elbowing me, if he was sitting next to me reading this as I type. But seriously, there are many people in and among us who may have difficulty reading or communicating with other people. There are generational, gender, and cultural differences in the way we communicate too; so maybe we should pay closer attention to the words we use?
I think there is a bigger problem here, something I never hear anyone talk about. We are a society that relies heavily on sarcasm/irony and insinuation/undertone to communicate. It is such a hipster way of dealing with other people…so cool (BTW is “cool” still cool? IDK). And, what we have laughed at, in movies and on TV, has trickled into conversations with friends, and spouses, and finally…from us to our kids. We have bred sarcasm and disrespect into our kids by the ways we talk to them and the way we talk to each other. I am pretty sure that this issue, we cannot blame it on peers, or media; because if we look for it, we can see it in ourselves, on a daily basis. As Paul might say in response to this, brothers and sisters, this should not be!
Instead of saying what we mean, and meaning what we say, we give half answers or partial directives. We use snarkiness to indirectly express our disapproval. We cannot correct our children by saying, “Really???” Rather, we should be specific in giving our directions to them; and if they fail to carry out a task as we have directed, or if they break a rule, or when they sin, we should be specific in our correction of them. We must remember that in giving direction or correction, we are always teaching. In fact, everything we say or do teaches them something about us, or the world, or themselves, and maybe about God. Shouldn’t we be more intentional in the way we deal with them?
Pet peeve #1: sarcasm directed toward children. According to a Canadian researcher, Melanie Glenwright, kids don’t really understand the humor in sarcasm or irony until the age of 10. They may begin to detect sarcasm at age 6, but it is usually perceived as mean-spirited. So, I think any use of this kind of communication, with kiddos younger than 6, is completely lost on them. Click here to read a short informative article about this. Another article explains that some people, regardless of age, never “get it” when it comes to this kind of communication. When adults talk to each other this way, even if we are not directing it at the children, it presents an unhealthy example to them.
Pet peeve #2: passive aggressive communication. It is really a tie here, with my number one pet peeve. We tend to do this more to other adults, but we do it to our kids too. Either way, we are teaching them how to relate to others, when we demonstrate this behavior to them. “Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them” (Daniel Hall-Flavin, Mayo Clinic Psychiatrist). When we agree to do something, but we feel anger and resentment about it, this is passive- aggressiveness. When we harbor hurt feelings but tell others, “It’s fine” , this is passive-aggressiveness. When we let slip a comment (to share our displeasure) and then take it back (without meaning it), we are being passive-aggressive: “Oh…looks like you forgot to run the dishwasher…again <<sigh>> uhhh…well don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.” But it is – a big deal – and everyone in the room knows it. Look, we all have our bad days, you know, where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed and step right into our cranky pants. But we must admit that passive-aggressive communication is just plain bad for everyone; and we have to repent when we do it. And if it is our regular way of operating, it is time for an intervention of some sort!
With our communication, the question we have to ask ourselves is the same one we must ask ourselves in everything else: “Does this [behavior, or action, or thought] glorify God or reflect His image to others? Or, are we meeting His standard rather than conforming to the world?
As for me and my House? We are committed to a Home Renovation. This day, and every day, we want to build our family, and our lives, on the Word of God. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2). The key to transforming our House is in transforming the way we think. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Keeping these Words in mind, here is our family’s Home Builder’s Agreement, part three of five.
3. My communication must reflect the love of God.
- I turn away from worldly ways of relating: sarcasm, bitterness, disrespect, passive aggressiveness, and power struggles.
- I strive to be intentional in every interaction:
– I must express my thoughts with self-control and humility (I say difficult things carefully)
– I must be focused and attentive when listening (I remember what I say and what is said to me)
- I choose to be faithful with my words (I must say what I mean and mean what I say).
- I know that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart must be acceptable unto Him; so I promise to take every thought captive so as to cut off sin at the outset.
God’s Word tells us that our behavior reflects the state of our heart (Proverbs 4:23). So today, let’s address our own behavior before we address the behavior of anyone else…it is a heart condition that needs a daily application of hearing and doing God’s Word. Really.