What makes the difference between a New York Times bestseller that everyone raves about and the novel that no one seems to give a second glance to? The answer is found in the 26 letters and how they are arranged on the page. Life sentences are passed, and pardons are bestowed; and every judge uses the same 26 consonants, vowels, and multiple combinations of the two when the gavel falls.
Through a reasonable and resolute semblance of letters and proper punctuation, a point of view can be made as crystal clear as a cold mountain stream. Through improper use of the same, the way that we convey our ideas to others can be as muddied as dirty brown ditch water after the spring thaw. There are only 26 letters in the alphabet, but 26 seems to be enough to build up or tear down through every discourse (spoken or written) that we have with others.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10, NIV).
This biblical reminder is such a bitter pill for me to swallow. I desire to be heard, and I don’t want to be stepped on. There are times when my ego craves the like-minded community of those who agree with me. Who doesn’t want others to hear their personal point of view? I do, and I’ve missed those 26 letters more times than I care to contemplate.
I sometimes write, say, or imply ideas that cut and tear down when I don’t think people grasp the importance of my message. But when all is said and done, those words define the way I look at people I communicate with. More than once, I’ve come across as belligerent, hard-headed, and stubborn…and I’m almost always remorseful for words that I cannot take back. Once they leave my mouth or press “send” on my computer or smartphone, I cannot un-say what I have clearly thrown out there.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:14, KJV).
Twenty-six letters. Only 26 letters in the alphabet, but imagine the possibilities!
Michael Temple writes from North Dakota.
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