About a month ago, I started rewatching Little House on the Prairie. I think I had forgotten how simple the show was from it’s themes, settings and costumes to its conversations.
One thing that stood out to me, besides the obvious lack of diversity, was the way they talked to their families, friends, neighbors, children, parents, teachers and even their enemies. Even Nellie and Mrs. Oleson were often engaged in a way that continually allowed them the space to participate in their community despite their arrogance, ignorance and hubris.
But it wasn’t just how they talked in complete sentences or with a tone that acknowledged each other as equal human beings, but it was also what they talked about and why. Their conversations were about things that needed to be talked about to strengthen life, community and relationships, and these conversations seemed to overflow from hearts that were sensitive to the needs and weaknesses of others.
Perhaps, these conversations with their tone, candor, consideration and kindness were so glaringly different because we live at a time and in a culture that has forgotten how to communicate, and we have forgotten what love, truth, hope, joy, mercy, kindness, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness and self-control sounds like, not to mention looks like or feels like.
Here’s the thing…language matters. It is full of experience, history, faith, beliefs, tradition, memory and the lives of past generations. Johann Hamann is among many wise men and women who knew that our language would both reflect and determine who we are, how we live as individuals and how we live in community. Hamann is also the one who showed there was no such thing as Kant’s “pure reason” because reason is determined by the language that has been spoken to us from our infancy. “Not only the entire ability to think rests on language… but language is also the crux of the misunderstanding of reason with itself.” Johann Georg Hamann
I think the reason why the language in Little House on the Prairie stood out was because their language was full of truth and love, an understanding of human vulnerability and the need for language that lifts up, remembers, encourages, inspires, nourishes, helps and educates. Consequently, their conversations had a purpose of helping another human being become a better human being, providing a place with context and understanding with a posture of humility, and these conversations were taking place in relationships where people were present and they cared about one another, even if they didn’t particularly like the actions of another.
Especially now, it seems as I listen to people talk and what they talk about and how they talk, I cannot help but notice a complete loss of language that is void of anything good, right and true. We sound like commentators, memes, mantras, catch phrases, sound bites, talking points, headlines and information that are completely fragmented and disconnected from truth and love, and most definitely disconnected from the reality of our own ignorance and arrogance.
Is our loss of language because we didn’t understand the importance or purpose of language and how it ebbed and flowed from the beginning of time and throughout history or is it because we have dumbed down our understanding of bad language to curse words while ignoring the compete obliteration of words that are full of peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control; or is it because our language reflects the dumbing down of us and we are without peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Truthfully, I think the reason why we are not completely shocked and disturbed by the mean, vulgar, disrespectful, rude, fear mongering, arrogant and ignorant way the world talks is because we talk just like them.
I think the reason why Donald Trump and many others like Donald Trump don’t offend every sensibility we have as human beings, not to mention children of God, is because somewhere along the way in our consuming massive amounts of CRAP in the forms of TV shows, movies, videos, news and posts, we have become completely insensitive, numb, deaf and dumb to talk that is full of indignation, animosity, malice, deceit, arrogance, recklessness, lies and obscene speech.
I don’t know about you or where you have allowed language that is dumb, demoralizing, degrading, destructive and deadly to speak to you. Perhaps, it is from years of watching TV shows and movies that have conformed us to its image. I know this is one of the places it was for me. I also know that it was only when I took very seriously who I was and how I was designed to be a healthy, whole and holy human being that I also took seriously who and what I was exposing my sacred self to and why it mattered.
A few years back, I made a conscious decision to stop listening to music, watching shows and movies that glorified consumerism, violence, idolatry, gluttony and greed. This included pretty much everything from Fox News to Housewives of Orange County, and all mindless entertainment. During this time, I stopped listening to language that flowed from people who the Bible calls whitewashed tombs. I had become very aware that their language never gave me rest but reduced me to some strange version of myself that could be controlled and manipulated. Surprisingly, the more mindless chatter I took away, the more sensitive I became to language and it’s power to kill and heal.
Not only did I take away CRAP but I also filled my mind with books, nature, conversations and silence that were saturated with goodness. I think the reason why what I am hearing today is so appalling is because I stepped away from it, which created a space for me to hear what language sounds like when is full of life, love and truth.
I really think it’s time we stopped participating in what is gross and offensive because I don’t think most of us realize how gross and offensive what we are saying or what is being said really is, which is why we should take a break and create the space to listen to who and what we are listening to. My question to you is who speaks to you? Who instructs you? Who do you listen to? Who is telling you who you are because they are also telling you how you are designed to feel, think and act.
For me, I try to avoid a lot of what the culture has to say because they don’t make sense. There is no moral high ground in a culture that is built on fear, power, fame and money, and is sustained by fear and the worship of power, fame and money. There is no truth in a culture built on amusing and consuming ourselves to death,and there is no such thing as morality or modesty when we are gluttons for food, entertainment, alcohol, drama, happiness, success, power, fame and superiority. Likewise there is no moral high ground in Christianity, when being a Christian is the confession that we are guilty in thought, word and deed of all sins. The reason christians should be able to spot “it” is because the Bible says we got “it.”
There’s a lot more to speak to when it comes to language and whose language first started shaping us and why their language was what it was but let us jump to the present moment because this is where we are and where we can choose to go another way. The question is who are you going to listen to? The horizontal world and the finite people fighting over power, privilege, fame and money?
Instead of listening to the world, I looked up and I turned my whole being to hear God speak in nature, speak through The Bible, speak in Jesus Christ and speak through people who imitate the Way, the Truth and the Life of Christ. Refreshingly, their language was full of love and truth and their “speech always with grace, seasoned with salt, to know how you should answer each man.” (The Bible)
When I started looking and listening, I discovered that there are lots of witnesses of truth all around. None are on TV. Many have written books sharing their experience, strength, hope and stories. None have written self-help books because witnesses of truth do not give rules, hacks, tips or advice- because their language is not broken or fragmented. They give encouragement, inspiration, nourishment and help to trust in God and to live life. Their language flows out of truth and love to give us rest by helping us remember who we are and how we are naturally designed to be healthy, whole and holy human beings.
Honestly, I don’t know anymore who in this world we would want to listen to. I know there are people but right now, unless you know someone personally and you can see if what he or she says actually lines up with what he or she does, then I probably wouldn’t trust them enough to speak into my life. It’s best to first listen to the one who calls you the beloved and calls himself the Word.
Funny enough, He has lots to say about our words and how our words really do overflow from our hearts. So, when you hear Christians who don’t sound much different than a news show or a leader whose words are full of “indignation, animosity, malice, blasphemy, obscene speech and lies,” just remember the Bible has a lot to say about them too and it’s not good. God will not be mocked. Perhaps, you don’t trust the Bible. I would ask if you have ever read it? I have listed just a few of passages from the Bible that speaks very clearly about our words. I think you’d be surprised what it does and does not say about language.
“36But I tell you that every idle word that men will speak, they will render an account of it on the day of judgment; 37For by your words you shall be vindicated, and by your words you shall be condemned.” -Jesus
“8But now you must put it all away: indignation, animosity, malice, blasphemy, obscene speech from your mouth; 9Do not lie to one another, having shed the old man along with all his practices,”
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. – Proverbs 10:31-32
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
– Proverbs 15:4
A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. – Proverbs 26:28
A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity. – Proverbs 17:20
For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. – Psalm 5:9
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 17:4-5
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. – James 1:26