language – a way of sharing ourselves?

Language can both break and create barriers.

It has extraordinary power – and yet is full of limitation.

As a writer and a reader (let’s not forget the value of the latter), I love words.  I’m also fascinated by how we use them, by why we use them and what we use them for.

I love having conversations with people where the potency of language carries the discussion deeper and deeper – churning up all kinds of thoughts, triggering more and more ideas. Language can be a beautiful way of sharing ourselves.

Jargon is an interesting one – for those in the field the specialised words are springboards – they carry connotations that bring further understanding.  They enable a group of people to talk about things with a shared knowledge of those words.  But for those outside the field, the jargon is completely confusing.  I think it’s important to discern when specialised language is being used for a good purpose in a suitable setting – and when it’s simply acting as way of obscuring meaning or worse, a display of arrogance.

As with so many things in lives – all the amazing gifts we’ve been given, not least existence itself – language can be used for wonderful things.  It can also be abused.

The power of words and how we use them fascinates me – if and when Longing to Remember hits the shelves then I suspect I will take that as the topic of my next book – looking at the power of words to harm and to heal, and how as Christians we need to use our words wisely and lovingly in all areas of our lives.

Of course, Christians have their own jargon.  Christianese, I call it, and although Christianese has some truly beautiful words – think of redemption and salvation – in a non-Christianese culture new terminology is sometimes needed.

Am I saying we should ditch the specialised words of our faith? No way.  But I think there is a place to use them – one which is helpful for teaching and building up – and likewise a place where we need to find other ways of saying things.  Words can carry baggage in our minds and in our world.  We need to find ways of ditching it.

This is a very rambling post…I’m writing at the end of the day – sorry!  But hopefully it isn’t too vague and boring (it probably is a bit!).

I’ll lighten it up with some questions for you:

When has language helped you, and when has it hindered you?

How can we use words in a way that glorifies God?

How do we ditch some of the baggage which attaches itself to vocabulary over time? Do we change the words or is there a way to reclaim the meaning?  Is that even possible?

On an unrelated note, I guest-posted on my pet topic over at the BIGBible Project this week.  Check out the storehouses of memory and please feel free to comment!

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3 thoughts on “language – a way of sharing ourselves?

  1. A most thought-provoking post; the only boring bit was your unjustified apology for it possibly being boring 🙂

    As a bellringer, I’m sadly aware that I sometimes use its jargon to ‘impress’ or confuse my listeners, and in the light of this, I now find myself wondering whether the same is true of my conversation ‘as a Christian’ too. I’m ashamed to say ‘probably.’

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