For many years, John and I had a long distance relationship. Our jobs caused us to live in different parts of the country for the first five years of our marriage. Although we saw each other about every 6 weeks (when he wasn’t deployed), we most often communicated by phone and cassette tape. The tape recordings were the best technology of the time.
I learned about making tape recordings for long distance relationships when my older brother, Jim, was in school in Israel. Mom and Poppa set up a table recorder on our dining room table. When one of us younger siblings had something interesting happen in our life, my folks would encourage us to stop by the dining room and share it with Jim. And, he had a tape recorder in his dorm in Jerusalem. He would send us tapes with stories about life in Israel, his friends and the university.
I most often made my tapes to John while driving to and from work. He would hear me talk about my plans for the day and then he heard that evening how the day had gone.
It was years later, while the two of us were sitting in the car in a traffic jam, that John laughed out loud and said, “move it, move it, move it.” I looked at him. He smiled at me and said softly, “my Sweetie’s favorite words.” What?? Until that moment, I could not recall hearing those words. And then it struck me: I said those words all the time while driving. But, I said them alone; no one was in the car with me. Well, no one except my darling husband who was listening to the recording that I was making.
If we were to ask our friends, our family members, our co-workers, what words would they repeat to us? Are there phrases or words or sentiments that we say that we really would prefer that they not hear? Do our words bring joy?
I was pretty embarrassed by my words. Shouting at other drivers to “move it” isn’t something I am proud of.
As leaders, I realize, we are easy targets; people watch and note when our lives do not match our words. We rationalize inconsistencies, claiming that we are not perfect people and saying things like “God is not finished with me yet.” But, in our hearts, we know that we are responsible for our words.
It is interesting to me that three times this week I have been involved in discussions about the words of those in leadership positions. In each of the three cases, the leader could claim that they had “slipped.” But, the discussions weren’t about the words themselves; instead, there was doubt that the leader’s intentions, plans, or assessments could be trusted based on the words and sentiments they had expressed.
Words matter. Our words provide insight into our hearts.
Think about the question posed in the book of James: “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” James 3:11