This year the “in” toys are those that talk to you. Advertised as perfect playmates, these toys come equipped with battery-operated tape recorders and tapes that tell stories and jokes, giggle, and fit right in with a child’s fantasy world.
While the development of a good imagination is normal, I have wondered about the value of these toys and in other amusements such as talking commuter games. Have our children learned how to relate to animation produced through bytes, bits, and microchips at the expense of not learning how to inter-relate, at least in some areas, with other people?
We all know the struggles involved in interpersonal relationships, especially related to communication. People don’t always say things we expect, appreciate, or understand. That old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true. Words often do make the difference between the experience of joy or sorrow, peace or strife, and love or hate. Proverbs 18:21 even says that “life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Words have a powerful potential for good when used by a person who is able to say the right things at the right time.
But we can’t program what people say to us and sometimes we can’t control our own speech very well. We want to say the right things but sometimes the opposite happens and we hurt, confuse, or disappoint others. Ephesians 4:29 tells us “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
We would agree that this is a wonderful goal, yet James 3:8 says, “The tongue no man can tame.” Is not that lack of control the biggest reason communication can be so difficult? How can we use our mouth to build others if we are not able to tame our tongues?
Paul laid a foundation for the answer when he told the church in Corinth that he did not come to them to impress them with his speaking ability or impress them with anything about himself. He hit a nerve concerning our communication problems - we too often think about ourselves and what will please us.
Paul went on to say, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He set his communication focus on bringing glory to the Lord, again, not to draw attention to himself. Unselfish motivation is only a beginning. We also need to learn what will build up our hearers and meet their needs. We need to know enough about them so we will not inadvertently do them harm with our tongue.
This is impossible with a me-focus and an expectation that others should always say things that please us. Being a good communicator involves listening, sometimes to things that we don’t particularly like to hear. In other words, it is necessary to practice communication with real people who give honest responses.
Communication with machines that say what we program into them to say and respond with what we enjoy hearing does not give opportunity to learn communication skills. Instead they promote a world of fantasy. It is in that unreal world that we can easily continue to think that WE never make any mistakes with OUR mouths, it is merely the fault of those who “misunderstand” us... therefore it is not OUR tongues that need taming.
With that, another important area of life fails to be submitted to the Lordship of the One who made our tongue and who wants to use it to bless others and bring Him glory.