The designer for Christian Dior, John Galliano, was fired after a video surfaced that showed his anti-Semitic rants at a Paris bar. Words can be dangerous because they trigger our thoughts and emotions. Galliano joins a long list of celebrities who haven't yet learned the importance of choosing wise words.
I suspect we've all embarrassed ourselves at some point in life by saying the wrong thing. Usually, we have the good sense to either shut up or apologize later. John Galliano did neither.
I'm finishing up three years at San Francisco Theological Seminary to become a Spiritual Director. This is someone who helps others to explore and cultivate the spiritual dimension of their life. People often tell me they think it's a huge jump to move from being an FBI counterintelligence agent to a spiritual director.
Actually, it's not. Both are about digging beneath the surface and uncovering the unknown to get at the truth-it is a great adventure, perhaps Your Best Adventure.
One of the first practices of spiritual direction is to stay in the moment. This may sound easy, but it means staying fully focused on the needs of the people with whom you're communicating and putting their needs before your own. This means that you do not come first-and this is why really paying attention to someone else can be so difficult.
How To Pay Attention
Here are a few ways to stay in the moment with another person:
- Focus on them and give them your full attention.
- Fight the urge to race ahead when they are speaking.
- Concentrate on people's feelings-the heart always trumps the head.
- Watch for eye movement when speaking because you may have touched a soft spot.
- Observe their lips when speaking because they are the most expressive part of the body.
What we say is often not what we mean. Can you recall a day in your life when every single word came out exactly as you intended? Most of us can't. We use wise words when we are mindful of the power of our words and the messages underneath them. What's really important, and what has gotten John Galliano into so much trouble, is the emotion behind the words.
What is Wise Speech?
Any idiot can blurt out words that were given no thought. Good leaders, however, carefully hone their message and mindfully express themselves. The cultivation of wise words takes effort. Wise speech is:
- Attuned to the quality of our words and their effects on others.
- Not motivated by the need to feel superior and be intimidating.
- Is never cruel or harsh.
- Invites everyone to improve on the communication process.
- Does not place pressure on others into doing what you want.
- Is not manipulative.
Keeping It All In Perspective
Perhaps the most important aspect of using wise words is to not take yourself too seriously. Here is a list of words not chosen well taken from church bulletins.
- The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
- "Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands."
- Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
- Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
- Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use back door.
- Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
I hope these church bulletin bloopers brought a smile to your face. A genuine smile is a sure sign that wise words are on the way.
"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18
How do you know when you've not paid enough attention to someone else? How would you describe wise speech? How do you create mental plans to improve your use of wise words?