I was reading the resume of an acquaintance recently. He made some claims that- well, let’s say, didn’t exactly reflect reality. If I had not known the person, his resume would have led me to believe he was much more experienced and accomplished than he actually is. So, everybody does it, right? Maybe, but “should it be done?” is the real question. Perhaps I am too cynical but because of the way that words are used, I tend to discount much of what I read and hear, thinking – “So, what really happened? What is the kernel of fact under the layers of padding?”
Hyperbole is not the problem. When a person says, “I’ve told you a thousand times!” we know what they mean, that their words are not to be taken literally. The problem is word inflation, which is just plain old dishonesty. It is everywhere around us. Candidates for political office say things that are full of fluff, just to impress. “It’s so good to be here in NJ, the best state in the US. I always look forward to visiting beautiful downtown Newark.” The audience politely applauds while thinking, “How many times have you said that this week?” Job titles are handed out that mean little in reality but that give the appearance of importance. Have you ever noticed how many assistant vice presidents there are in banks? Advertisers routinely mislead consumers, though carefully within guidelines that avoid legal repercussion. Last Fall, I took my grandson to McD’s for a Happy Meal, which included a little toy. After a moment, he threw the toy down on the table in disgust. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “It doesn’t work like on TV!” he replied. Hey, little boy, welcome to the deceptive world.
Believer, we must not acquiesce to this trend of dishonesty. We must not fall into the trap of padding our stories. To do so is a sin. Jesus tells us “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” (Matthew 5:37, The Message) He made this statement while talking about vows and promises. Our word, He taught, is to be so trustworthy there is no need for us to buttress our truthfulness by saying things like, “I swear to God!” Those who follow Him should be so authentic, so transparent, that no one even thinks to question the truthfulness of what they say or wonder if there is any need to search for hidden messages. James, likewise, directs us to plain speech. “Since you know that God cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.” (James 5:12, The Message)
I want to encourage you to listen to your words today. See if you have developed a habit of inflation, even in the little stuff.
Do you exaggerate the tone of another’s words?
When you speak of yourself do your words make no more, no less of the situation than is real?
Do you use language in a way that always shines the favorable light on yourself?
Aim for honesty. I am not suggesting that in the name of being real that we have to say hurtful, mean, or ugly things! There’s a time for discretion which is expressed best by silence. Sometimes the best words are no words. Honor the Lord by refusing all forms of puffery, dishonesty, and fluff! Refuse to cultivate an image. Be the person God, in His grace, has called you to be, nothing more, nothing less.
“We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. ” (2 Corinthians 4:2, The Message)