I’ve never been good with the spoken word. I was deathly shy in high school, speaking as little as possible, except to my closest friends and family. In college I loosened up, got a little more comfortable in my own skin, and began to converse more easily with others. However, I was still ridiculously shy in the classroom setting, doing all in my power not to be called on (lest my face turn so bright red that others would stare and possibly worry about my health).
After college, I married a man (www.chipmattis.com) who is a master of words. In fact, after participating in a church class, our pastor coined him as The Word Jedi, since he always knew just how to pronounce the hard Bible words and always knew how to articulate what was on his mind.
My fantastic, Word Jedi husband is my go-to person when I need to make an important phone call. When we moved to a new town and found a great doctor for the kids but she wasn’t taking new patients, for example.
The nurse told me “sorry, she’s not taking new patients” and I said, “okay, thanks anyway.” My husband, on the other hand, called back and heard “sorry, she’s not taking new patients” but HE thought not yet, that is… and ta-da!
All three kids were new patients by the next day.
Questions concerning confusing medical bills and insurance? I hand him the phone and suddenly everyone is on our side. It’s simultaneously maddening and amazing.
He is the perfect husband for me in part because I can rest assured social situations will always be easier with him nearby. He balances me out and has served as a great example to me, inspiring me to become bolder and more confident in my in-person interactions.
I, on the other hand, have always been more comfortable with the written word. There’s a quote by Flannery O’Conner that hits the nail square on the head. She said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
Whenever important issues come up with important people in my life, I always prefer email. And no, not because it’s too intimidating to have serious conversations face to face (which it sort of is, but that’s beside the point…), but because I have to see my words in print to be able to think through what I’m trying to say before I officially say it.
It’s the only way for me to communicate effectively and be sure I’m saying all that I intend to say.
Some people are natural-born talkers. They can have difficult conversations in their sleep and not lose focus or forget what they were going to say.
I am not those people. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even from the same planet as those people.
Do words have power? Absolutely, not doubt about it.
Are words more powerful when spoken or written? Well, just look for a moment at the New Testament.
First we have Jesus himself, who is well known for his crowd-gathering preaching and parables. He was a spoken word man through and through. Powerful? Um, yes… Jesus and all.
And then we have Paul, the author of much of the New Testament. Did you catch that word there? I’ll say it again. Author.
I’m sure Paul did his share of speaking as he traveled around starting churches and sharing the message of Jesus. But what do we know him for today? His writing!
Paul is one of my favorite authors of all time because he demonstrates so clearly the power of the printed word.
I’m sure we are in agreement that there is power in both the spoken and written word.
But when it comes to present day personal interactions? The effectiveness of spoken vs. written word definitely depends on who you are.
Now, there are certainly merits to conversing in person, including making it easier to give someone else the benefit of the doubt, which I go into detail about in my last blog post: https://www.jessiemattis.com/2018/09/21/giving-god-the-benefit-of-the-doubt/ .
But there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how people best interact with one another.
I mean, really. What if Paul decided he needed to follow Jesus’s example exactly and so only preached to those in his vicinity? (Although there could be records of Jesus writing letters that I’m just not aware of.) Thank goodness Paul recognized his gift of writing and was able to utilize his parchment and quill to make such far-reaching contributions to eternity!
Let’s allow ourselves to embrace our “spoken word” self or our “written word” self without feeling like we should be one or the other. God created both types of people and will use us each for his great purposes. Isn’t that the main point after all?
Do you relate more to Jesus or Paul’s preferred communication style? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below. And if you’d like to receive future posts directly to your inbox, please zip over to the “subscribe” button and leave me your email address! Thanks for reading!