Words without Power

I came to the realization yesterday that words and ideas that used to be packed with meaning, and therefore power, have slowly been diluted. Words like hope, trust, promise and love have been marginalized to the point that their meanings have become confused and misunderstood. We say, “words are cheap.” And they are, if the person who says them has no intention of following through on the action the word demands. Friends of mine, going through really tough times have been on the receiving end of this . Their friends say to them, “I love you,” but what they mean so often is “I will be committed to you until it becomes inconvenient for me to do so.” This got me thinking about C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a series of letters, written by a senior demon, Screwtape, to his junior-tempter nephew, Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood on how to handle a certain human, to ultimately secure his damnation. Like most things C.S. Lewis writes, it’s brilliant. As I was thinking about the power of words and ideas through the lens of spiritual warfare, I thought that, if I was responsible for the damnation of humans, I would begin to trivialize the ideas that give them hope. I assume that I’m not alone in the thoughts I have. Thoughts like, “I wonder if dinosaurs cross-bred?” Well, maybe I’m alone in that one, but I also wonder what life is all about. What am I here for? Will I ever feel truly content? Things like that.

It seems like at each milestone in life (i.e. getting married, having kids, buying a house, etc.) there is the potential to think, “huh….that wasn’t really as fulfilling as I thought it would be.” It’s proven to me that life isn’t about the things – it’s about the people. And in a world where people can be thought of as commodities and rungs on a ladder, words like hope, faith and love are more important than ever. When the guts are ripped out of hope, people lose the motivation to hope – and by hope, I mean the active pursuit of hope. Because if hope is futile, what’s the point? I’ve seen this in myself. When hope is lost, when love disappoints, and when faith is damaged, I’ve become lifeless. A robot, going through the motions. When that happens, victory goes to Screwtape.

In the last few days, I’ve been trying to rethink these ideas. Who do I really love? What does that mean? Am I fighting for hope? I’ve felt a bit robotic in the past few years and I think it has something (or everything) to do with allowing myself to lose the power of the things I believe in. Because life has gotten so hectic and distracting, I’ve stopped thinking about the things that really matter because I’m simply trying to make it through the day. It’s a strange paradox that when I pursue hope and love, making through the day becomes an afterthought.

One thought on “Words without Power

  1. I love this and I appreciate the way you referenced the human tendency to use words that are to big for for the conversation. CS Lewis is one of my all time favorite writers and he says it like this;

    “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

    We have such a need to try and get people to believe what we are saying that we use the wrong words and end up not meaning what we say. A while back, the Lord showed me something after I left the house for work and having a rough morning with both the boys and my wife, I casually said “love you” and walked out the door. What God showed me as I drove was what I said in contrast to what I did. When we say I love you to someone, what we are really saying is, “I will be patient with you when you don’t deserve it and kind to a fault. I will persevere with grace for you and live selflessly always preferring you first.” That is what love really is and if we don’t intend to at least try for that when we say it, we should probably re-think saying it at all.

    I also am familiar in the last several years with losing hope. It’s a daily battle but it’s worth it. As far as i know, hope is the only thing that the Bible says “does not disappoint.” We can infer that other things won’t disappoint, but they aren’t pointed out like hope is.

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