Here’s a scenario that happens often. A young couple is meeting for a cup of coffee. Boy is sitting in the coffee shop waiting for Girl to arrive and when she finally does she says hi and sits down with a long, loud “siiiiggghhh.” She takes a deep breath and makes a contorted looking puppydog face that’s supposed to communicate sadness in a cute and endearing way (only to end up looking like she’s smelling something very foul.) Now Boy has one of two options. He can ignore all these “silent” communications and move on as if he didn’t notice this grand display or he can take the bait and ask what’s wrong. If he ignores it, then he risks being branded an insensitive jerk, a heartless fiend, a shallow and callous human being, or any other form of highliy dramaticized condemning description. The conversation that ensues goes something like this:

Boy: What’s wrong?

Girl: Oh, nothing…

Now at this point, he can either take her on her word or he can press on following the age-old stereotype that when a girl says nothing’s wrong she really means that she’s about to burst into a torrential onslaught of tears.

Boy: Are you sure nothing’s wrong?

Girl: Yes, everything’s fine. Nothing’s wrong. Why would you think something’s wrong?

Boy: Ok, well if you say–

Girl: (interrupting) Well since you asked, I’ve had the worst day!!! First…

I’d like to say that this is the only situation in which we’re faced with disregarding people’s words and looking past them to get to the truth, but it’s not. We have been conditioned to read into things and search for meanings in all communications, whether they’re just normal exchanges between family members or friends, or we’re watching a news broadcast, or reading a magazine. The notion that our words don’t fully convey our meanings or what is in our hearts has permeated throughout all aspects of life. Because if we could really take people on their word then why are people so wary of politicians and what they say? Why is it so hard to get a straight answer to a simple question? Why does “nothing’s wrong” mean “keep asking me till I tell you?”

Perhaps this is why almost 2000 years ago we were given the instructions “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

If we said what we meant and were always clear, if we took people’s words for what they are and trusted that they are speaking the truth in their minds and hearts then perhaps life would be just a little more peaceful.

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