What Are We Saying? Creating Substance in Communication

Ink stained fingers, feeling paper between your thumb and index finger, the sound a pencil makes as it etches words across a page, these are all experiences associated with the practice of writing a letter.

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately–”laughing” a dangerous pastime, I know.

I’ve been thinking about the millstone-carrying weight of our words, and how modern formats seem to shape their substance, or lack of substance. Let me explain:

You shoot a text message.

You type. You press send. Immediately.

How much thought goes into those words?

I’m not speaking about avoiding spelling and grammatical mistakes–I’m speaking about understanding the ideas we craft with words and the strength they carry.

“Press send now” is our culture. Don’t get me wrong, I text and have a thriving Instagram account, but a couple weeks ago I was presenting a lesson to my class where they had to write a letter of their own. We read an article that discussed the idea of how modern culture can rob our words of weight, of thought. The article listed reasons why people in 2016 should still practice the art of letter writing. One of those reasons was that writing letters slows us. It causes us to value words, to tally up the cost to ourselves and the other person before we seal those words into an envelope, and ferry them away with a stamp.

Talking with eighth graders about this idea of ways to create more quality communication was an absolute privilege, as is blogging about this idea.

Friends,

I challenge you.

I implore you. Write a letter. Slow yourself. Write a letter to someone you deeply care for and give them your time. Evaluate the weight of your words. We write and speak so much fluff, meaningless drivel. My theory for why this happens is two-pronged. First of all, we’re terrified to reveal anything of substance about ourselves, as we’re haunted by a fear of rejection. Secondly, substance takes time and thought–investment. Substance takes time to craft which few of us seem to have. Fluff is easier.

What is the burden of our words?

This is a challenge for men and women as well. Sometimes there’s this weird idea that letter writing is for women who write on fluffy, pink, perfumed stationery? I hate fluffy, pink, perfumed stationery. I’m not sure when that idea became popular? (It wasn’t always a popular idea. Check out Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln’s manly letters.)

Also, I’m not writing that we ought to destroy our phones and computers. This is our age and we burn with its pros and its cons. Technology is ours and is a wonderful tool. However, it is the cry of my soul that our words would carry substance, depth–meaning. Creating substance in modern formats of texting and social media is more difficult but not impossible. That’s one of the reasons why I advocate so strongly for taking a trip back to the dark ages and writing a letter, it means for a moment we are able to slow ourselves, and grapple with what our words mean for us and for others. Then we just might be able to look back on our text messages, tweets, and Instaposts, and wonder what we’ve been saying all along.