power of words out of context

Greetings, friends! I’m not going to waste time with more feeble excuses for blog absenteeism. You’ve heard them all. I’m just going to jump back in…

From today’s liturgical readings;

Jer. 18:18-20.
The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.” …

The lectio divina form of prayer seeks a word or phrase that speaks to you, at this moment and place in time. Today, I pondered on these words;

And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word

In lectio divina words are often taken out of context. They become a springboard for mulling, meditating, praying, and discerning right action. This can be a good thing. A very good thing. But, how often do we take words out of context in order to destroy the character of others?

Taking words out of context and splattering them across news headlines and social media has become the preferred style of journalists, commentators, and bloggers. Others pick up on the energy in discussion boards, giving the words a larger life than intended or a distorted life far removed from the original meaning.

I’m guilty of this. I love to pounce on the latest stupid remark from a person on my “do not like” list whether a political candidate, celebrity, government or church leader. My ears become attuned to the words that fuel my dislike and affirm my righteous anger. I intentionally search them out, and gleefully share them with like-minded souls.

I’ve used this strategy to write many a blog post and column. Mea culpa.

Yet, there are times when words are so stupid that they make context irrelevant. Or, they are repeated so many times by the person that they become fair game for a good rant or a challenging debate. When we realize that the words accurately reflect the person speaking them and these words demean or promote hatred then it is our duty to challenge them.

As with many things in life, it boils down to discernment. And, discernment cannot be rushed. It requires careful pondering and judging before acting. This is especially challenging with instant communications.

For myself, I’m going to try and resist the temptation to pounce on the “headline wagon of the day”. It’s freeing, actually. One of the things that I was finding most stressful with my writing was trying to keep on top of all the issues as they happened. I admire the quick-witted writers who can pound out a thoughtful, meaningful commentary within hours or minutes of an event. I’m not one of them.