When Words Become Meaningless

Upon becoming a CEO, a former research scientist turned to obsessive reading of management books to help make the transition.

He found lots of memorable phrases (my favorite–“focus, focus, focus”) but very little actual help. The author of the focus phrase neglected one very important piece of the puzzle–just what should the manager focus on!

Some phrases were repeated so often and regularly misused that the words–for example quality and excellence–had lost meaning.

Sometimes I wonder if we do the same think as Christians (or Jews or Muslims, too). We repeat phrases that lose their original meaning and their impact. They become just words. Sometimes just words that we can use to self-justify (remember my recent post) our actions or lack of action.

I’ve witnessed people who have a favorite phrase (“praise the Lord” or “I love Jesus” or “I’m saved”) and then flagrantly commit adultery. Or even worse, pick up a weapon and injure or kill someone.

One of the original “God is dead” theologians whom I read probably 50 years ago was merely trying to explain that when the word “God” loses its power and impact on people–when it just becomes a word that is repeated–then it is as if to those people God is dead. Indeed, He is dead to them.

The word is there, but the spirit is missing. Or, as we used to say, the lights are on, but nobody’s home.

When we use words without power or spirit, we devalue the word, the thought, the spirit.

And remember, adverbs are not your friend. And adjectives should be acquaintances who seldom visit. And yes, when I wrote that last sentence I paused and scanned to count adverbs. I think one too many. What do you think?

God is a real spiritual being who desires a relationship. Jesus was a human being who, being the pioneer of our faith, died and then returned to life. Real beings, not just words.

Words have power, use them wisely.

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