For those of us you who are also perfectionists, you know the agony of slowly tapping out words and tediously editing to ensure that your words are perfectly polished. Some of us extend our need for each word to be exact to our conversations with other people.
We have our reasons.
As wielders of words, we know their power. The more precise your words, the better your meaning will be conveyed. By putting out perfectly polished words, you get to choose exactly the message given to others without misunderstanding or misleading anyone.
But sometimes we over-edit. Sometimes the message we convey to others is so precise it says little at all and loses its impact.
Consider some of Jesus’ words:
“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” –Mark 9:19
What a way to win people over, right? These raw words of Jesus imply His (Godly) frustration with humans living according to their human nature. He doesn’t find a kind, roundabout way to politely suggest that disbelief has implications.
But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” –Matthew 8:22
Ouch. Insensitive. Demanding. Bossy. We could read a lot into these words, and surely some who heard such phrases did.
Jesus wept. –John 11:35
It wasn’t what He spoke, but that He didn’t. Imagine how puzzling it must have been to see the Lord of the universe, the great Teacher, weep instead of comforting others and explaining that just in just minutes He would raise His friend from the dead.
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. –Luke 10:21
Polished words are often used to impress, control, and influence the wise and the learned. Jesus’ words were for the little children. Children could understand His frustration and His clear directive to follow Him and switch from a perspective of death and this world to one of eternal life.
A child knows what it is to weep rather than find “the right words” because indeed, weeping with others is often just as comforting.
The difficulty with speaking and writing without all the polish is that people might see through the words.
Your readers might see through the raw words and witness a struggle you face right now instead of an issue you’ve resolved and are sharing “learned” insights about. Friends might find that your advice comes from a place of imperfection and, while you want it to be right, might be skewed or incomplete.
You might find yourself vulnerable, as we are vulnerable when we talk with children. Little people’s words aren’t polished. Their questions aren’t polite. The implications they read and lessons they pick up often mirror not what you so carefully explained but what was going on in your heart when you explained it.
What if like Jesus you let people see through to what you’re feeling right now, not just your tidied-up, lesson-learned analysis? Could you set aside control and your spotless reputation?
Because here’s what Jesus’s unpolished, raw words did that our cleaned up, decorated words often do not: pointed right to God’s heart.
Rather than marking out each step as if it must be understood and handled, we could fix our eyes on the perfect author who writes even the messes into His plot.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith –Hebrews 12:2