No matter who you are or what your personality type, you and I are all bombarded by words more than ever before. They come at us from every direction and every device and whether we have a love for them or hate them, they influence us even when we don’t plan on that. Sometimes we fall prey to their persuasion while other times we shut down our minds and hearts to the cacophony of them.
I have always been a lover of words and that gets confirmed by one of my primary love languages. That may be true of some of you also, but even if it isn’t the case few would deny a longing to hear words of love, encouragement and affirmation. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all like to know that we matter in some way to someone.
One of the risks we face is that sometimes we are so hungry for the words that we get caught up in them without clarifying there is substance beyond the words themselves. That theme is front and center in The Idea of Love, a novel by Patti Callahan Henry, where the characters get caught in telling their stories as the people they would wish to be versus who they are. The enchanting story shows how each begins to enjoy the false persona and love starts to appear between two main characters that is based wholly on fictional portrayals.
We seem to be drawn to a good love story whether it is in a movie, book, or the real life of someone we know. We also long for such a story to be one where we have the leading role (even if we don’t admit it).
The challenge in that is not that it is a bad thing, but that it rarely happens like it does in the movies or your favorite novel or love song. Maybe because those focus more on “the idea of love” than what we recognize.
This isn’t something new to this generation. We have always longed to hear what we want to hear across the broad spectrum of our lives. Perhaps that was behind part of the reason Eve fell when she listened to the words used to seduce her to break the one command she was not to do in the perfect world God placed her in.
There is no question that words have power – sometimes for good and sometimes not.
They not only impact our love relationships, but our spiritual lives we well. Paul write about this to Timothy and notes how prevalent it will be as the time for the Lord’s return draws near.
“For the time is coming when they will no longer listen and respond to the healing words of truth because they will become selfish and proud. They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear.”2 Timothy 4:3 (TPT)
So how do we deal with this and determine what is genuine, authentic, and true? With the increase of technology available today it can be easy to get lost in a world of smoke and mirrors meant to cover the intent of the one saying the words or writing them.
An old idiom many of us are familiar with points the way:
“Actions speak louder than words.”
The quoted idiom can be found as early as the 1600’s but was first used in the form we use today in the United States by Abraham Lincoln in his Cooper Union Address. And for whatever anyone may think about this country’s self-taught lawyer who became our 16th President, his life shows the evidence of what he believed by the actions he took.
As a retired clinical counselor, I would tell you that I often would tell the person seeking my help that if the words and actions of a person do not match, believe the actions because they are not easy to fake. A person may say many things, but what he or she does will represent more of their character.
It reminds me of the song “Show Me” in the Broadway show and movie, My Fair Lady, when Eliza sings these lyrics in part to Freddy:
“Words! Words! Words!
I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars Burning above; If you’re in love,
Show me! Tell me no dreams
Filled with desire. If you’re on fire,
Show me!”Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Jesus came to earth. He was the Word. God spoke the Word, but He was and is more than just talk. He demonstrated each day that He was here the truth and reality of everything He said.
As we contend with the barrage of words in this season and how they are used to persuade, deceive, or cajole us Eugene Peterson offers us sound advice:
“If we forget that the newspapers are footnotes to Scripture and not the other way around, we will finally be afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Too many of us spend far too much time with the editorial page and not nearly enough time with prophetic vision. We get our interpretation of politics and economics and morals from journalists when we should be getting only information: the meaning of the world is most accurately given to us by God’s Word.”Eugene Peterson in Run With the Horses