Word Nerd Wednesday: Less is more

I’m still in the process of working out exactly what this weekly wrangling over words is going to look like. Last week, I took a very pointed look at a man who helped change the way we write words and their technical use. It was along the lines of what I initially envisioned. Now, however, I’m thinking that will be just one among many ways I discuss our daily use of words.

It is readily observed by anyone paying a modicum of attention that words, their evolving meanings, and how we use them in our current society are changing the cultural landscape at a rapid pace. That brings me to today’s discussion, inspired by the prolific writing of Joshua Gibbs. In a recent article, A Defense of Just Bottling It All Up, he asks his readers to re-examine the emphasis we place on talking it out as a way to resolve conflicts.

My skeptical stance toward the idea that interpersonal conflicts are best solved through conversation is chiefly derived from two things: first, a staggering amount of evidence and personal experience which suggests the contrary, and second, a staggering lack of biblical evidence to support the claim. Upon saying this, I suppose there is a certain kind of reader who will respond, “Oh, so you think it is better to fight?” However, such reactions only go to my second objection. Modern people have been trained to believe all problems are solved either by violence or by calmly, rationally sitting down to talk. To the contrary, Christian tradition suggests a rather wide range of much better possibilities— like doing nothing, for example.

People who make their living using words generally recognize that the power in using them sparingly. Our current ethos insists that if we could just talk more about our differences, we might be able to diffuse the polarizing atmosphere that has gripped our current social and political environment. Gibbs rightly questions this.

The age of social media has led to endless chatter about race and gender, nonetheless, I still regularly encounter people who claim, “Our problems with race will not go away and until we can openly discuss them.” The idea that we talk too much about important issues is blasphemous. Americans used to believe that throwing enough money at a problem would make it go away. We now believe that throwing enough words at our problems is the answer. Nonetheless, St. James says we should “quick to listen,” which does not mean “quick to engage in conversation.”

He also notes the admonition from King Solomon: When there are many words, sin is not absent.

The whole thing is worth a read, so click over to glean the appropriate context for what was offered here. This Word Nerd Wednesday, I’m pondering the admonitions from King Solomon and St. James. To give it a more modern spin:

When it comes to our words, less is definitely more.

So…what do you guys think about talking everything out as the ultimate method of conflict resolution? When do we accept the reality that words often fail?





2 thoughts on “Word Nerd Wednesday: Less is more

  1. hearthie says:

    Talking has great value – but not ultimate value. One must also have purpose.

    What is the PURPOSE of the talk? Creating communal feeling? Maintaining friendship? Discussing hard things with a family member? Giving directions? Expressing social dominance or group-identification?

    I am coming to the slow realization that the next stage of my life will involve more purposeful communication – and thus more silence and reflection.


  2. Elspeth says:

    Yes, Hearth.

    Talking does have great value. The article I referenced says as much:

    Don’t get me wrong. I love to talk and to hear my friends talk. The virtue I chiefly value in my friends is their ability to hold a conversation. One of the greatest benefits of living on the campus of the school where I teach is that people stop by my apartment all the time, sit around my table, drink, and chat. My idea of the good life is a long dinner party wherein all the guests stay until late and the conversation moves from light to weighty subjects as the evening goes on. Such parties should disband only after everyone has simultaneously come to some epiphany, the kind of epiphany that can only be summoned when many friends incline their hearts toward one another and seek the truth.

    I have been blessed in recent years to be able to be a part of many of these types of conversations in my own life.

    Of course, the postmodern notion that people can somehow just work out everything by talking and talking talking some more conflicts can be resolved, when in reality that is always the case. See our current political and social dilemma.

    Liked by 1 person

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