Cosmo Kramer may tell you that 94% of our communication is nonverbal. Many experts agree in overall philosophy, even if the number is disputed. There is no doubt that many aspects of our communication are more than the choice of words. This is why the best conversationalists often aren’t those with the best choice of words. This is why the conversations in person are better than those on a phone. This is why a step that probably involved very few changes in words and allowed some of our covenant members to enjoy gluten-free elements was such a wonderful step, as Kelly Simpson wrote about earlier this week.
I was reminded again this week that delivery of words can be more important than the words themselves. For someone who struggles to convey the correct emotion for the situation, this can be exceedingly frustrating. But it can also be a life saver. Because sometimes we just don’t know what words to use. I know I’ve literally had conversations where I just did not know the proper words to say, but because of my ability to give off the proper non-verbal cues, I was understood.
When I think of the profound way that we can accomplish this, I am reminded of Romans 8:26 (“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”) That is a beautiful promise that our prayers can be communicated to God even when we do not have the proper words. Perhaps it could begin a conversation on the power of prayer, but that is a discussion for another day. The fact I realize from these moments, wonderful though they may be, is that they are the exception.
One of the beautiful things about our dignified design is that we can speak. And our speaking is in actual words. Many movies anthropomorphize animals to the point where we think their barking (or other form of communication) is akin to another language, but the reality is that it is more akin to grunting. We may be able to pick up meaning from tone and other nonverbal cues, but animals were not created to communicate as intelligently as we do. Humans have the astonishing capacity to see, hear, feel, and then to think and form judgments about it all. We can know right from wrong; good from bad; beautiful from ugly.
In addition to feeling profound emotions of love and hate; joy and discouragement; amazement and appreciation, we reason and plan our lives in ways that we accomplish things. As I think about animals, I am amazed at my own humanity, at my wife’s humanity, at my kids’s humanity, at our covenant family’s humanity. I think about those who commit volumes of verses to memory as part of a Bible Quiz team and imagine how well they can recall it. I think of how much I have grown. I think of how much those I know have grown. I think about the incredible wonder of the humans with which I share a planet.
One solitary person can have such a profound impact on it all. This last week (and the forthcoming one), we heard from some of the most powerful people in our republic. And while many talk about the delivery of the speakers, ultimately what will be evaluated are their words. The words are necessary and they are, ultimately, the most important and exact part of the communication. They are the one part that is totally controlled. They are the part for which we can actually hold people accountable.
According to James 3, the words (or the tongue that delivers them) are the reason that most should not become teachers. They guide our entire body. They are worth listening to, and also worth being careful. Jonathan Edwards understood this to such a degree that he read his entire sermons to insure that he did not speak a bad word. This powerful tool given to us as humans, has become even more powerful in this age of technology preserving everything we write (instead of just the good stuff), yet many people gloss over them.
Proverbs 10:11 is a verse to which I often look to show how much difference our words make. “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” Imagine that the words of the godly are like fountains of life. We live in an age of running water in several rooms within a house, and at several hoses outside, yet we can still imagine the life sustenance water provides. My words can have that kind of positive impact. Unfortunately, the opposite of that is also true. Therefore, I will endeavor to take to heart (and pursue) the words of those who are godly.
The carefully-chosen words of the godly, which are a wellspring of life will naturally flow from those who are close to God. This is another gift God gives us—that those close to Him naturally deliver messages from Him through their words. This is why we often find ourselves committing a phrase that greatly impacts our life to memory. This is why we should also consider the words we say to others. Are they filled with love, good intentions, or the spirit of the Lord? Or do we intend to cause pain with the words we speak?
As we continue to attempt to control the words that come out of our mouths, we must remember that our words are powerful. They steer our entire being. They are important, and we should not be led astray by the better delivery of words, even if it is as high as 94% because those are all marketing on the words that we use. And while sometimes we are gifted with looking beyond the words, we must remember that those are the exceptions.