Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Eloquence

I love literature. My dream job (don't laugh) would be to write. This blog is an outlet, and a place for me to practice writing. My wife, of course, knows of this affinity for the written word, and my enjoyment of big words. She sent me her Dictionary.com Word of the Day entry for January 13 (she's catching up from her India trip), and said, "this is you!"

I couldn't argue, seeing as the word was sesquipedalian. And yes, I knew what it meant before she sent me the email. That is almost sad.

I sometimes dream of being eloquent, of writing that one wonderful phrase that will make a critic of my idea surrender to my view, begging forgiveness for prior wrongheadedness. Judging by the number of people who've come forward letting me know that they've changed their minds due to something I wrote, I would have to say I've not been terribly successful.

What I think is getting in the way here is often that I try too hard to be eloquent and persuasive instead of letting ideas work through me. I like to use big words, when the simplest will do. Writing 101, I know.

The Gettysburg Address, arguably one of the most powerful orations ever delivered is succinct. In the roughly 250 words (depending on which transcript you use) there is no flowery puffery. President Lincoln used very few words to get across the idea that democracy should not perish, lest those who died for it would have died in vain. Lincoln didn't argue his point, he just stated it. He didn't aim to persuade, but aimed to remind people of a noble truth.

This is important. The truth exists. We don't have to invent it, we don't have to wordsmith it. We merely have to remind people about it. The Bible tells us that God wants us to know the truth, and it tells us how to speak the truth. Scripture doesn't command flower language, or flattery. It only commands that we speak the truth out of love.

And the Bible tells us this truth in the simplest of terms:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life -- John 3:16 (NIV)
.

Words are powerful things. They describe and convey ideas. Words, carefully chosen and arranged, can persuade or dissuade, inform or deceive, encourage or discourage, inspire or deflate, lift up or tear down. We should avoid being careless with them. To share the truth does not require babbling, and using words carelessly hides the truth behind a veil of verbosity.

I'm not saying we can't, or shouldn't, write with flair. I'm tweaking my own love of words with some of the words I've chosen so far. (And I'm on a quest to teach my daughter the word "albeit" to surprise her kindergarten teacher. My daughter already uses the words nefarious and gregarious.) On the contrary, using language creatively is both enjoyable and good - as long as we use language appropriately too. The most creative curse is less impressive, and far less persuasive, than the simplest blessing.

I pray that above being eloquent, I would be truthful. God's word doesn't require my embellishment. The most powerful message stands out quite clearly in its own simple self.

God bless!

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