They Say…

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.                           Matthew 5:37 (The Message)

Listening to recent political discussions and rhetoric over the past months has been difficult for me, and maybe for you too. I am a writer, and I tend to pay close attention to what people say. Yes, words do matter- a phrase that has been increasingly used lately.

The use of the word “They” strikes me. When we use the word, “They”, it can mean a lot of different things. Or it can mean nothing.  Too often, when the word “They” is used, it connotes “those other than us”. This can be very divisive, you know, “us and them”. It may be used, unfortunately, in that context to separate, and often to vilify others.

“They” is also used to allege things that cannot be proven by attributing them to a vague or unknown source- the infamous “they say”. If a source of facts or data do not exist, some resort to the “they say” school of persuasion.

Finally, I am always sensitive to people who use the word “they” when discussing a group to which they belong. People may use the word “they” when they do not want to use the word “us”.  

We all default to using the word, and, obviously, there are many times that it is appropriately used. I do believe that we need to be careful about how we use our words. Those words are powerful and meaningful. Yes, words do matter.

Prayer: Lord, you have given us your Word as truth, help us to honor it with our words, Amen.

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