By Emily Parke Chase –
While talking with a friend at work, I thanked her for helping me with a project. She was delighted and hurriedly gushed, “Oh, it was no pleasure at all!”
Though I wandered away shaking my head, I decided to extend her grace. After all, “It was no trouble at all” and “It was a pleasure” are not so far apart. Then my friend’s husband, also a co-worker, apologized for forgetting the name of a client. “You know how it is, in one ear and gone tomorrow.”
Perhaps we all need an occasional reminder to ponder our words before they flow off our tongues. We think at high speed and release a thought before it is fully processed. Our brains switch off and head out to Starbucks without warning.
This issue of mangling phrases is not a modern disease caused by watching too much MTV or texting messages on i-Pods. Anyone can slip up typing 140 characters with his thumbs. But forty years ago, long before e-mail and emoticons, my grandmother encountered a friend in the market one morning and passed along a compliment overheard the day before. Like my co-worker, my grandmother’s friend blushed and, in her excitement, replied, “Oh, thank you so much! And, Mrs. Parke, if I ever hear anything nice about you, I’ll be sure to say so.”
Can it be true that over the course of decades my grandmother’s friends had never said a kind word about her?
The problem of prattling pitfalls only gets worse when we make such errors not before an audience of one but in front of a large group. Consider, for example, the Sunday morning when one of our former pastors looked out over his congregation and noted a large number of empty seats in the worship service. He apologized to us for the meager attendance. “The crowd seems much thinner today. All our ladies are on a weekend retreat.”
Fortunately for him, his wife was among those attending the retreat. Or was it the other way around? Would she have preferred to be seated among those of us whom he considered more slender? Thankfully, if she ever heard about his comment, she too extended him grace. They are still happily married.
Maybe we should all strive to be a bit more like Moses and develop slowness of speech.
“My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19 NLT)
(Emily Parke Chase is busy editing out mangled phrases on her webpage. Visit her at emilychase.com.)