ENCOURAGEMENT for 2019 – MisCommunication

Encouragement for 2019

Miscommunication

Good morning!

There is a common ailment in our world today that infects everybody, and that is, “Miscommunication”. Miscommunication or “poor communication” impacts businesses, families, and communities both financially as well personally[1]. How does miscommunication occur? The simple answer is, a man opens his/her mouth or puts words to paper and the rest is all downhill. The more complex answer is that when there is no set protocol (rules and acceptable behavior), people will rely on their assessment of the writer/speaker’s intent. Couple the lack of protocol with the barriers that exist in every environment and fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and something or someone will be misunderstood. The issues arising from miscommunications can go on for years undetected and ignored until something critical occurs that brings the communication front and center.

Fear of saying or doing the wrong thing is nothing new; although, I once thought I was the only one with the problem (how foolish I was) until just recently when I read an online article as part of this paper[2].  This fear causes us to put up barriers and chose very carefully what information to divulge and when to divulge it[3]. It was for this reason Moses did not want to lead the nation Israel anywhere (Exodus 2). The problem is, even when we say nothing, we are saying plenty by our actions by using non-verbal communications; but, even at that, we are misunderstood.

Intentional Miscommunication

Intended miscommunications or intentional misleading statements within any community causes great disturbances and will destroy relationships when the truth is uncovered. Consider how the Pharisees proclaimed that they were “disciples of Moses” (John 9:28) which, in a way, put them up on a pedestal in the eyes of the people; whatever this group wanted, it got without question; whatever they said, was considered “gospel”.  The problem is, Moses didn’t have any disciples. So, how on earth could this cadre consider themselves disciples of Moses? The answer, I think, is “appeal to authority” which is one of many laws of fallacy. Without the name of Moses to give credence to their organization, this group would have no real standing[4]. The Sanhedrin was a tribal council of sorts that would hear the mundane or non-capital cases and make a decision; all of their real authority came from Rome. So, it could be possible that the “Moses” the Pharisees were referring to was Caesar. When Jesus arrived on the scene and preached about the Kingdom of God, the group of self-proclaimed Rabbis had to know that any time, this man could very well blow their cover and then the group would become instantly “unemployed”. In John 11 verse 48, the Pharisees in as much admitted: “If we let Jesus go on like this, Rome will come and take away our temple and our nation”. This is where the intentional miscommunication comes into sight because what the group was really afraid of was Rome putting them out of business and so something greater than just a plum job had to be on the line.  The people of the time we’re caught between two opinions; to obey Jesus was to stop following the foolish path of the Pharisees and Sadducees which meant they would be excommunicated from the Temple (John 9:22); something no good child of Israel would ever want.

The enemy of our soul, the Devil, is the master communicator which also makes him a master at “miscommunication”. If you will notice in every situation where he is involved, the message is skewed to appear to be concerned about our best interests when he doesn’t care for us at all; look at what he did to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6). Everything the Devil does is intentional. Remember, intentional miscommunications always have its roots first in deception and 2nd in destruction. When David was talked into the unauthorized census, the purpose was to bring about the destruction of the nation (2 Samuel 24). The deceptive words made the intent sound honest – “find out how many fighting men Solomon will have when he becomes king”. For this reason, we need to be clear-headed about what we are hearing and always consider the message and its originator’s motive.

Unintentional miscommunication:

 The unintended miscommunication or, “gaffe” which, is a social blunder, is more of an irritant than it is destructive; but, the after-effects can bring nations to the brink of war. What we do in life whether it be good or bad, is often forgotten but, what we say or how we say it goes to the core of people’s lives even if it is misspoken. One once said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me”[5]. While this may appear to help people get past hurtful names, the problem is that those very words tend to form our world view especially when the two parties are unwilling to stop, clear the air, and restart the communication. In the political world, gaffes occur quite frequently because, the individual must speak to people as part of their daily routine and when the mouth opens, out comes the most unbelievable junk you can imagine and it doesn’t matter what kind of education the individual has or, what he/she professes. The political gaffes are reported as fact and used against the person; especially, when it suits the opposition or to make points with the opposition’s baseline support.

The problem with spoken word is that we know what we are intending to say but the four walls (attitude, tone of voice, listener’s filter, and past track records) that surround the situation block the intended meaning and interfere with the message and that is where problems get started in the world around us. Consider how the Dakota Sioux war of 1862 which, started over a misunderstanding between two different languages and cultures and culminated in the deaths of 500 white settlers and 150 Sioux warriors[6] not to mention the loss of property. The war lasted for over a year and, in the end, many were hung for their atrocities without ever once considering just how the war started and who was ultimately responsible for its inception and its completion. The four walls in this atrocity were, apathy over a proven track record of not honoring commitments, attitude towards the opposition, tone of voice, and one-sided reporting. After the war, many sought to make an orderly account of what happened and, for the most part, it was “the poor white man” versus “the vicious savages”; which only emphasized the Sioux nation’s point.  Problems like the war of 1862 are nothing new in our world and we see the same things happening today even with the advent of social media, news outlets, and the cry for “tolerance”. Everything we do and say reflects on the people we serve and represent. For this reason, we must always guard what we say before we say it. In Old Testament times, the Priests had to wear belles on the bottom of their robe, an ephod containing gems which were emblems of the 12 tribes, and a pin on the front of their turban that said, “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28).  The reason for all of this was to remind the priests who they represented and to always bear in mind the awesome responsibility the Priest had so that he would not cause problems. In the same way, as parents and employees, we represent our company and family in our day to day jobs so we must carefully watch our tongue and guard our heart.

The Future Problems with Written Work

Since the invention of the Cuneiform writing around 3500-3000 B.C.E., mankind has documented his/her journeys[7]. The problem with written work is that the author is not always going to be around to ask, “what did you mean by _____” so we have to use textual criticism to come to some idea of the intent of the message; this requires doing your homework[8]. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to do their homework and glom onto misplaced snippets of information to come up with a thesis. As an example, Martin Luther wrote a letter in 1543[9] outlining his frustration that the Jewish nation would not convert to Catholicism[10]. He made some very snide comments about how the Jews should be treated. In 1933, the newly elected Chancellor, Adolph Hitler, glommed onto Luther’s diatribe and was responsible for the execution of more than 6.5 million people in four years[11]. Adolph Hitler had made Martin Luther out to be a man like himself and felt justified in his actions when it should have brought immense sorrow.

What happened in Germany though, would not be the only time in history when a historical document was misunderstood or stretched into something it was never intended to be.  Consider the statement, “Separation of Church and State” which was used a metaphor in paraphrasing the first amendment “Establishment Clause” when Thomas Jefferson addressed the church in Danbury, CT. The intent was that the State would not interfere with the church to establish a state-sponsored religion[12]. This was a lesson the authors learned from what happened in England when the church and state became synonymous.  I believe the church needs the state and the state needs the church. Today, we have this crazy idea that the two are irreconcilable when it was far from the initial meaning.

When it comes to Biblical understanding, we also get mixed up; because, we fail to keep it in context and understand the different writing styles involved. The composite Bible that we hold in our hands came from many scrolls in the language of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. We read the word of God and glom onto certain pieces of scripture and forget the rest. From this snippet, we develop our theologies and people follow us until they find out that we were misled. Once this happens, we are never listened to again and the topic of “God” becomes taboo. Relevant magazine in an online article spoke about the 5 most misquoted verses. Among them, Philippians 4:13, Matthew 18:20, Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 7:1, and Psalms 46:10[13]. Present-day Christians are afforded a position of knowing what would happen in history because, it is recorded for us; those who come after us, will know how we lived and how scripture affected us. This, however, also puts us at a disadvantage because we tend to read 21st-century situations into the 1st-century document and think they agree when in truth they are not. First-century Christians like the people that came before them knew about the coming of the Messiah and they knew Torah and Mishnah. Many biblical concepts are difficult to grasp because, they are written in riddles, poetry, similitude, pseudepigrapha, and other such writing styles. I say this not to persuade people to “stop reading the Bible” rather, to read it with the previously mentioned items in the forefront of our mind. If we do not keep it in mind, we get a mixed-up idea about the God of the universe and will fall into Satan’s trap of, “throw yourself off of this ledge because scripture says, ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guide you carefully; they will lift you in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'”(Luke 4:10 NIV); or, better yet, “You shall pick up snakes and they will not harm you” ( Mark 16:18).

Conclusion

As come to the end of this document, I understand all too well just how complex communications are and how easy it is for miscommunication to occur. For this reason, we must know that every word was spoken, or letter was written should be carefully considered as one would find the perfect angle to cut a diamond. Unfortunately, we don’t always have time to mull over every word that comes out of our mouth; so, we need to stop to listen and understand before we judge.

Encouragement:

Miscommunications cost time, money, and separate people sometimes accidentally and others on purpose. For this reason, all of our words should be carefully guarded and used with restraint or, as the Psalmist put it, “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong” (Psalms 141:3 NLT).


[1] P Buhler and J.D. Warden (Ph.D.). Excerpt from: Up, Down, and Sideways: High Impact Verbal Communications for HR Professionals (SHRM 2013). Accessed https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/communication/pages/the-cost-of-poor-communications.aspx

[2], Julia Fraga. When Worrying About Saying the Right Thing Gets in the Way. Accessed https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/03/26/saying-the-right-thing/

[3] Leon Seltzer, Ph.D. Communication: The Universal Phobia. Psychology Today (June 29, 2008). Accessed https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/200806/communication-the-universal-phobia

[4] RIVKIN, E. (1978). Scribes, Pharisees, Lawyers, Hypocrites: “A Study in Synonymity”. Hebrew Union College Annual, 49, 135-142. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23506828

[5] Alexander William of Kinglake. 1830 first reported in the Christian Recorder in 1862 (Wikipedia).

[6] History.com Staff. Dakota Uprising Begins in Minnesota. Accessed https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/dakota-uprising-begins-in-minnesota

[7], Joshua J Mark. Definition Cuneiform. Accessed https://www.ancient.eu/cuneiform/

[8] Botan and Kreps. Textual Analysis Chapter 9. Accessed https://mason.gmu.edu/~afinn/html/teaching/courses/f03_comm250/fbk_chapters/09.pdf

[9] Naome Marans. On Luther and His Lies. Accessed https://www.christiancentury.org/article/critical-essay/on-luther-and-lies

[10] Eric Gritsch. Was Martin Luther Anti-Semitic? Accessed https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-39/was-luther-anti-semitic.html

[11] Emily McFarlan Miller and Tom Heneghan. Legacy. This Berlin Exhibits How. Accessed https://sojo.net/articles/nazis-exploited-martin-luther-s-legacy-berlin-exhibit-highlights-how

[12] Ryman and Alcorn. Establishment Clause – Separation of Church and State. Accessed https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/885/establishment-clause-separation-of-church-and-state

[13] Scott Pruitt. 5 Most Misused and Abused Bible Verses. Relevant Magazine (July 6th, 2017). Accessed https://relevantmagazine.com/god/the-5-most-misused-and-abused-bible-verses/