Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s word stewardship strategies 2 and 3 go together. They are “Tell the Truth” and “Don’t Tolerate Lies.” Recall that number 1 was Love Words. I’ll come back to that one shortly.
In her second strategy (Tell the Truth) we are responsible to tell the truth. This doesn’t mean obscure the truth by talking in the vaguest possible terms. It doesn’t mean carefully constructing what we say so that we don’t actually say what we mean. It means saying what we mean. McEntyre provides some great examples of precise and careful writing that tell the truth in ways that vague or hyperbolic reporting. She suggests looking for just the right verb. She also suggests truth telling means not always speaking. Here is the bit I liked best from the chapter. I read it waiting for my bus. I stopped reading and read this part again. It made me smile.
In reading a recent novel, I myself was convicted by a comment the mother makes to her adult daughter: “My dear, you’ve missed so many opportunities to say nothing.” We do miss those opportunities, as well as opportunities to say less and say it more judiciously. And so we miss the particular delights of finding words and speaking them into silences big enough to allow them to be heard.
So good — “the particular delights of finding words and speaking them into silences big enough to allow them to be heard.” Truth telling involves making the silences big enough for truth to be heard, not shouting above the din.
In the very next chapter though, McEntyre reminds us not to tolerate lies. We need to weigh what we are told. What do we believe? Who do we trust? How do we know? How do we speak truth in a culture that is addicted to lies, hyperbole, and spin? We’d rather crawl into a hole until the train wreck of the latest political scandal (why must everything be a scandal?) blows over. But we also have a responsibility to be engaged citizens. What does that mean? We have to do the work of figuring that out. If we do nothing, that is a decision with moral consequences.
The other day, just after I posted about my intolerance for the word “impactful” (I can hardly bear to write it), I was at a gathering of family and friends. RABrother used the word “impactful” in a sentence. I was shocked. RABro is a writer and thinker. He does not generally throw jargon around. I objected to the word. My friends immediately all began using the word “impactful” in sentences of their own so that I wouldn’t take myself too seriously. We moved on to the story of the event that had impacted my brother’s life. It was ironic. I thought you might like the story.