Meaning–More and Less

meaningThe word “tremendous” should be banned. Given the context in which it has been used repeatedly, I’m not sure I even know what the word means anymore.

“Awesome” is another one, as in “Our God is an awesome God . . .” My apologies to those who feel strongly about this praise song. It is over-used and the key word has lost its essential meaning.

There is a public lexicon of words and phrases that we default to when trying to describe, especially affirm, those we minister with.

But many of these words are too general or have been emptied of meaning.

So what to do?

Dozens of parish and diocesan youth ministers taught me how to affirm someone well. One simple rule. Be specific–very specific.

With practice, affirmations started to sound less like, “You did a nice job” (what does that mean anyway?) and more like “You clearly prepared that reading. I appreciate how well you conveyed the meaning of the Scripture.” A lot more words, but much more meaningful ones.

As leaders, it is easy to forget that others look to us for feedback of all sorts. When we don’t take time to attend to the specifics of the individual and situation, we may come across as seemingly careless or uncaring, something none of us wants to be.

Next time you find yourself reaching for one of those default words or phrases, stop and “rewrite” your comment. As parents are wont to say these days, “Use your words” — your many words including and especially adjectives and adverbs.


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