Tag Archive: language


We’ve been discussing the power of our words. The power of words to bring life and death into a person’s life. I wasn’t expecting to write on this topic nor did it occur to me that it would be an issue that I face and have been facing, for a while. All of us have had promises made to us that have been broken for one reason or another. Some were made by parental figures, those we love, our friends and people we just met. One would think that the promises of a stranger, would mean little, in contrast to the impact that these empty words have upon our psyche and subsequent behavior. In the series, Precious Hope, we discussed why hope and faith appear to fail. The failure of words, the reliance upon humans and the things that we promise to one another, can cause our faith to “fail.”

How many times do you have to be promised that someone will do or not do something before you lose faith in that person? How many times do you hear other people make promises that never see the light of day before you start to lose faith in people? Cynicism and a jaded attitude can flourish when watered so often through the lies that people tell. The “good” intentions. The platitudes of promises never meant to be kept.

“Guard your heart, you’re too sensitive, don’t take it personally” may sound familiar to you like words of encouragement in the face of a broken promise. Perhaps, you’re like me, and you take most of what people promise and consider it, like smoke rising, forming and dissipating with the quickened wind? I’d rather have a discerning attitude filled with grace than the aforementioned viewpoint.

However you treat the broken promises in your life; I have these thoughts on the issues. Don’t be a promise maker. When I first met my two boys, I told them, “I won’t make very many promises to you. I know that there are too many things that happen that I can’t control.” Instead, be a promise keeper. Make the promise, to yourself. If you’re going to do something for a person then do it. Now, I know what you might be thinking. How I can help someone out by picking them up at the airport and not tell them? That’s really not what I’m addressing here. Although, I will quickly amend the previous statement and say that those promises, not kept, hurt as well. Therefore, if you find yourself unable to keep promises then don’t make them. If you promise to pick someone up from the airport and you forget and just leave them hanging then you shouldn’t be making promises. Perhaps, though, you don’t know how to follow through? Most people have their own personal devices to receive calls and texts. Use them to communicate any difficulties in fulfilling your promise (traffic, forced to work late, whatever).  If you cannot fulfill your promise then do the best you can to make sure it can be fulfilled. Picking someone up and can’t make it? Get them another ride through Uber, a taxi or another reliable source (don’t call your serial killer friend and have him pick them up).  If you make a promise to pick someone up, meet someone at a specific time or have someone somewhere, waiting on you then use your smartphone (calendar, reminders, etc). Tie a string around your finger. Put notes all-around your house. Do everything that you can, if you find yourself to be forgetful, to remind yourself that you made a promise. When I think more about it, a lot of promises keep someone hanging somehow. An anniversary, a call that’s never made, dry cleaning not picked up, the list goes on and on. If you’re going to make the promise then make the effort to make sure that you don’t forget the promise. When you find yourself a promise-breaker then stop making promises.

As the one who’s the recipient of broken promises, know this, it’s not you. I know it’s very hard. I know that it’s even harder to not harden your heart toward people when they make promises to you and sometimes, it is you. If your friend Karen makes promises to you and breaks them most of the time then perhaps you need to stop relying upon Karen’s promises and either call her out or thank her and move on. Don’t be passive-aggressive or take Karen’s problem and cast it out onto all people. Whatever you do, don’t become cynical and jaded. Don’t start thinking that everything that people say is a lie. Even if most of the time it might appear to be so.

This was brought to my attention because I am a Christian and I realized that I believe in a God that I cannot see and that most of my faith comes from the Bible. It comes from the Word of God. As a Christian, we know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)

These are still words. I’ve found myself, to my surprise, to be more of a John 10:38 person who believes through the works that prove the words that have been spoken. However, that’s not faith. Not really. However, I have to remember that God is not a human being. God doesn’t lie. He has never failed me. I look to Bible, and I am reassured by the Word of God;  Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, and Hebrews 6:18. I remember that Jesus didn’t trust people because he knew our hearts. (John 2:24)

I didn’t realize until this week how much of a struggle it is for me, sometimes, especially in hard times with people, to rely upon God’s Word and walk in Faith believing that which is unseen as seen.

I want to encourage you today, as I try and receive encouragement in my faith, to not harden your hearts to people. Don’t label them as liars and hypocrites. All of us make mistakes. All of us have broken promises. We’re all human. Let’s try and do the best that we can to speak life to people and, though it be a cliché; if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.

To those of you are Believers in God. Trust in Him. Remember, He won’t lie to you. His ways are not our ways and his timing is perfect. Remember what He has done in your life so far. Remember the impossible that has been made possible. Count your blessings and above all. Bring your doubt, your fears and concerns to Him who is faithful, because He loves everyone.

 

Do you like routine, order and knowing your place in the Universe? You know what I mean. Whether or not we realize it, most of us desire some semblance of order in our lives. Even those of us who say that we embrace chaos and live “crazy” unpredictable lives don’t like it when our world view forcibly changes. Imagine being six years old, an only child and your parents have another child. The very least that they could have done was to consult you. Did they? Oh, maybe they said something to you about have a little brother or sister but you didn’t know how that would forcibly change your world view. A new brother or sister? Great, you liked the new puppy so it’s probably going to be like that. Mom and Dad are happy and you get all excited until the Day it comes. I remember very clearly when my Mom’s water broke. I was taking a bath and I heard her yell to my Dad something about the water being broken. The water looked fine to me. I should have known, at that time, that this would be the first of many new changes to my world view.

While more couples are deciding to only have one child (11% in 1976 versus 22% in 2015) the family unit is also growing smaller with the number of families of four or more children declining from 40% to 14% as well (from 1976 to 2015). The age gap between children has also increased with the change in family units where both parents are working from one parent staying at home. An age gap of 4+ years appears to be an ideal time for working parents to have a second child. What I found most remarkable in my research regarding age gaps between child was the focus was primarily on the impact on the parents. The parental view is one in which the parents will be able to focus more on one child than the other “knowing” that the older child will “understand”, the self-sufficiency of the older child, etc. The basic idea is that an older child who has had the benefit of years of parental attention will be more able to handle the intrusion of a second child.

In reading the numerous reasons from one source after another I couldn’t help but remember old black and white media where the children didn’t behave like children but were dressed and acted like little adults.

How does a child in the early stages of childhood development (between 3 – 8 years of age) become this independent, self-sufficient, confident, logical, well-organized, mature, paragon of adulthood? No, that’s childhood, right? Does this confuse you? It confuses me that people would expect this from a child who’s just started childhood. The aforementioned qualities are hard to find in many adults. If this weren’t the case then why do so many job advertisements ask for many of these qualities in their search for an employee?

Let’s continue with this idea in mind and consider the types of communication required to form this perfect child. Let’s re-visit Brad, Janet, and Tim who is now four years old. As you may recall from Part Two Brad and Janet decided that they would raise Tim and discipline him through their words.

Unbeknownst to Tim, he was not always going to be an only child and so, from birth, his parents were overprotective, strict disciplinarians, who put a lot of pressure on Tim to be the best that he could be. Tim needed to be a “good” boy who did everything his parents wanted him to do in the way that his parents wanted it to be done. Tim was either “good” or “bad” and what he did was either “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” Brad and Janet kept their promise to not exercise corporal punishment in disciplining Tim. Instead, they thought that gently and logically explaining to him how he was “wrong” when he wanted to eat cereal with a fork, or how it was “bad” for him to knock over the card house before Janet saw it, were better than spanking him like when they were kids. Brad and Janet focused primarily on persuasive negative reinforcement to change Tim’s behavior.

When Brad and Janet decided to have another child they were confident that Tim could handle it without any problem. Afterall:

  • Tim spent most of his time alone in his room playing with his toys or in the backyard in the sandbox and making up games to play.
  • He was conscientious of his behavior, always confirming whether he was “doing it right” or not.
  • All of his toys were properly organized. He was so cute, he would give them a stern talking-to if he found them out of order.
  • Sometimes though, he would become upset when he couldn’t find one of his toys and had to have Janet or Brad help him locate it.
  • He was very smart and would sit quietly reading to himself.
  • He loved to draw and was very creative. He even picked up after himself gathering the crumbled and torn pages that had mistakes on them.

Overall, Brad and Janet were quite pleased with Tim. Although he was shy around other kids, they knew it was just a phase that he was going through. A little brother or sister would be just the company that he needed. They excitedly started to try for another child. Hopefully, they thought, another one just like Tim!

In the next part of this series, we will review Tim’s “perfect” behavior, introduce childhood disruption, and the conflict of communication that arises when changing from an only child world view to that of a firstborn world view.

Hey, did you know that life isn’t fair? I know, I was shocked and dismayed when I first discovered this little secret. How do we define what is fair and what isn’t though? Well, I looked it up here. We’re discussing fairness in terms of life, right? So, let’s take a gander at the first definition. “1a: marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Do you see the word “favoritism?” I do. What does it mean, though? If you’re like me and you look up words then you’ll notice a general cyclical trend when using the dictionary. Therefore, I jumped over to check the entomology of the word instead of running around in circles.

A “disposition to favor one person or family or one class of persons to the neglect of others having equal claims.” Let’s extrapolate a little bit and say that life isn’t fair when one person, for our purposes here, who is equal to another, is treated in a manner that benefits one person over another.” Does that make sense? How does it relate to where we left off at the end of Part One, that we were going to continue to examine the role of communication in life?

I’m glad you asked. We’ve already discussed briefly how we are born with the ability to be receptive to language. It was pointed out that language is much more than words and you thought that was really cool. Or perhaps that was me. Either way. Let’s move on. Let’s agree on the following:

  • From the moment we’re born our brains are developed to the point of being able to be receptive to language.
  • As infants, we are helpless to how we respond to our situation. We cannot change it.
  • Language is more than just words.
  • A typical infant, between the ages of three and six months, can express pain, pleasure, displeasure, hunger and respond to the tones of voice.

I know those points were brought up in Part One but we need to keep them in mind because we are not raised in a vacuum by people who live in a vacuum. I’m calling this, “The Vacuum Principle.” The aforementioned principle is simple. We interact with other human beings and therefore we are influenced by other human beings. Remember this term, because I will be using it again, and I think I’m very clever for having thought of it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most people are raised by other people who either:

  1. Have been exposed to infants.
  2. Have never been exposed to infants.

These two factors are critical in how a child will be addressed by those who are raising it. For our purposes here we are going to use a mother and a father as the primary care-givers. I know that there are myriad situations in which children are raised. I’m not discounting single parents, foster parents, and other means in which a child is raised. We just aren’t addressing those here.

Let’s first address a couple who have just had their first child. We shall name him, “Tim.” We shall name Tim’s parents “Brad” and “Janet.” Brad and Janet are traditionalists who are happy that their new-born son has all of his fingers and toes. They haven’t read anything by Dr. Spock nor any other books on parenting. No, they haven’t even read Parenting For Dummies. This doesn’t mean that they’ve not been exposed to other sources of knowledge, children, etc. and I’m not saying that this is a right or wrong way of raising little Tim.

Here’s Tim, a firstborn child to a couple who have never had any previous children.  However, they have had some experience being around other children, have seen them in television and movies and were once, themselves, children. Both parents share a general sense of “right” and “wrong.”

One common trait amongst human beings is that we often remember negative behaviors and events more than positive events Science explains this behavior as a survival mechanism in order to aid in the prolonging of life. In short, if you touch that hot stove, you’re going to remember not to touch the stove again.

If you’ve had negative experiences with children then you’re likely going to remember them when you have your own. If you had negative experiences as a child then you’re likely going to remember those as well. “When I have children they are not going to act like that” is a common response to the misbehavior of someone else’s children. “When I grow up, I’m not going to treat my kids like I was treated.” The odds are that if you’ve spent any time around children, have children of your own or you were once a child, that you have formulated an idea, in your mind of how you will treat your own children. Even if you don’t expect to ever have children of your own. It’s a logical thinking process of human behavior. You’ve basically already formed a framework of how you’re going to parent your firstborn child.

Expectations. We all have expectations even if we try and avoid them. The mere acknowledgment and effort to not have expectations creates a paradox where one does have expectations. The mindset not to have an expectation is an expectation that you’ll have no expectations. Make sense? Parents have expectations for their children. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having expectations for one’s children. However, how are these expectations communicated? Words, tones, non-verbal communication, etc.  You cannot sit down with a young child and draw up a treaty of behavior. They are tricky little creatures and will most likely renege on their promises. We use our words.

Here are Brad and Janet who both have a general sense of “right” and “wrong.” Right? Except they don’t. They can’t. The Vacuum Principle makes this an impossibility. Why you might ask yourself? If people remember negative events and behavior more than they do positive events then Brad and Janet are more inclined to remember the negative behaviors they’ve experienced as children and around children. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Everything. Maybe one or two things. If Janet was considerably physically disciplined as a child then there’s a possibility that she will likely be more inclined to seek other methods of disciplining Tim. I am not advocating nor disagreeing with physical discipline. That’s another issue for a different discussion. We’re not going into how Janet might respond to the memory bias that she’s developed through her own childhood and subsequent experience around children right now. We are going to point out that Brad has his own memory bias that he’s carrying around. Let’s be creative and state that Brad’s parents didn’t believe in physical discipline. Unlike Janet’s parents, Brad’s parents read that corporal punishment didn’t work as well as other forms of discipline with fewer negative consequences.

Before Tim was ever conceived Brad and Janet already had different parenting styles. In regard to discipline, they both retain a negative bias. Janet, will not, under any circumstances, strike her child due to her own personal experience. Brad believes that he’ll never strike his child because he never experienced corporal punishment as a child. This looks like a good recipe for their future child, Tim. Right? Brad and Janet planned little Tim and discussed parenting styles. They both agreed, for sundry reasons, that they would use their words to discipline their future child. Their words.

Where does favoritism come into the picture? Tim’s just been born, and we’ve not even scratched the surface of how Brad and Janet communicate to him. You’re right. We haven’t addressed favoritism yet. Or have we? How did we define favoritism?

“When one person, for our purposes here, who is equal to another, is treated in a manner that benefits one person over another.”

Brad and Janet are a couple. A single parental unit that, through their mutual experiences, have formed a favored way in which they are going to treat their firstborn child. Tim is the object of favoritism here. If that doesn’t work for you then consider Brad and Janet as two people who are both determined that their child will have a more favored childhood than their own. Tim is still the object of favoritism. In regard to communication; Tim will be disciplined by words.

In the next part, we will discuss expectations of firstborn children, how they relate to parental communication, childhood development and, of course, the power of speech. We might make it to the effects of early childhood disruption by a sibling, but maybe not. I’ll just leave you hanging for right now.

Be a good girl! Don’t touch that. You’re a bad boy. Susan is such a good girl. He’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never amount to anything. We’ve all heard and perhaps even spoken one or more variations of the aforementioned phrases. We all know the power of words. Don’t we? These are our tools, our weapons of warfare that we utilize for good and evil. When we speak positively to a person we can change their day and lift their spirits. We’re speaking life to them. However, when we speak negatively to someone then we can bring them down or even destroy them. We’re speaking death to them. This isn’t a news flash. Anyone who blogs should know the power of words. I’ll go so far as to say, that, if you’re a human being, then you know the power of words.

Words that crush your soul that those you’ve loved the most have spoken to you. Those who think that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” As an adult, we should know who we are. We should know the lies that people say to us. The things that are said to hurt us, right? None of us were born adults though, we begin developing our responses to the words that hurt us or lift us before we can even remember those words.

From the moment we’re born our brains are developed to the point of being able to be receptive to language. I think that’s cool. I also think that it means that, from the time we come into this world our brains are being shaped by the words spoken to and around us. What does this mean? It means that we are helpless to how we respond to our situation. As an adult, we like to believe that we have the choice to leave when we want. However, how much does our helplessness as an infant reflect into our adulthood?

Language is so much more than words. A typical infant, between the ages of three and six months, can express pain, pleasure, displeasure, hunger and respond to the tones of voice. That’s only a small part of childhood development. You can read more here. Let’s think about that for a moment. Did you think about it? Great. Let’s think about this too. Science tells us that we don’t remember very much before the ages of two through three.

Science tells us that it’s likely that our first memories before these ages are fiction. I know that my first memory was when I was a year old. Now, I didn’t realize that this was my first memory until I was twenty-nine. I do believe, however, that what I previously thought, was my first memory, was between the ages of two and three.

Here we are not remembering anything, according to science, before the ages of two and three. Therefore, we’ve gone through a lot of psychological development through language and other communication. People wonder why children behave the way they do. If you’ve been told for two years or so that you’re bad then it sinks in. It becomes a part of you. If, on the other hand, you’ve been directed with loving and life-giving instruction then that too, becomes a part of you.

In my time of teaching children, we didn’t speak to them in terms of being “good” or “bad.” We spoke in terms of choices and used neutral or non-judgmental tones of voice. For example, telling Susan that she’s “bad” for not sharing with Tommy just didn’t fly. On the other hand, asking Susan, how she might feel if Tommy didn’t share is another approach. The point here, for this discourse, is that we’re being trained on how to behave and how to think of ourselves and others from the time we’re born through verbal and non-verbal communication.

Let’s think of the ramifications of being told that you’re a bad person from the time you were born until, let’s say, you become a teenager. What that must do to your self-image. Let’s think about a life of affirmation from the time you were born until you become a teenager. How very different those two people may see themselves because of words.

We’ve not even addressed other forms of input from our peers to social media. There was no such thing as cyber bullying when I grew up. The bullies of yesteryear were those who only worked from the time you were in school to shortly after you got out of school.  Cyberbullying has brought bullying into an unnatural, natural state of being for the youth of today, that’s all about degrading the human spirit to the point where, in too many cases, life, to the one being bullied, isn’t worth living.

Over 50% of people under the age of 18 have experienced cyberbullying and the same number have engaged in cyberbullying according to a 2009 study by the i-SAFE foundation. This involves anything from death threats, blackmail, damaging words, and rumors. The list sadly goes on.  This was ten years ago! Why are we surprised when they are mass shootings when, according to this study, everyone under the 18 of age, in 2009, had either engaged in or was a victim of cyberbullying? I wonder how many people have killed themselves because of those words? Less than 10% of people under the age of 18 reported bullyings to anyone. If that’s the case then it’s likely that those statics are much higher.

The population of the United States in 2009 was 305 million people. The current population of the United States is over 329 million people with a growth rate of one child born every eight seconds. There are 31,536,000 seconds in one year of 365 days. If we divide that by eight then that’s 3,942,000 children born in one year. So, from 2009 until 2019 we can look at 39,420,000 new children. Of course, there are mortality rates and such not taken into account here as well as my fallibility as a human to make mistakes. The point, however, is that these are new people being born. How many of them were born to people who were 18 in 2009 and are being raised in this age of speaking death by people raised on death?

Wow, how depressing that can be. How insightful it can be into why there’s such judgment upon this age of Millennials. We’re not looking at a generational gap here; we’re looking at a gulf between Millennials and everyone who has come before them. We’re looking at a generation more heavily influenced by the power of communication than any previous generation. A generation that’s carrying on this tradition of speaking death. Judgment and condemnation are not needed here. We need understanding. We need to speak life into this generation whose children might not come home from school today.

How much more important it is then, to speak affirmation, life, hope into people’s lives than ever before? How much more important is it to applaud this generation of Millennials who are doing the best that they can in circumstances that many of us never even knew? There’s already enough death in the world without us speaking it to one another each day.

We’ll continue to examine the role of communication in the next part of this series. In the meantime, try smiling, saying, “Hello” to a stranger, be kind. Treat people with love. I’d say, treat them like you’d want to be treated, but I don’t how you’ve been treated. If you’ve been beaten by words perhaps it’s all you know?