The Looks We Give

Our church is doing some major remodeling right now so we’re meeting in the Fellowship Hall for a few weeks for our services. This has led to some new seating arrangements with chairs, piano, and pulpit placement falling victim to “wet paint” signs, stacks of construction equipment, and even a radio-active warning back by the nursery… whatever THAT’s about. It kind of reminds me of camping, which I really like. Everythings in limbo, and everybody knows it, and very few people care. We’re all just glad to be there.

One thing you can do with this temporary seating arrangment, depending on where you’re sitting, is see a lot more faces. Instead of everyone staring at the stage and the pastor, you can actually see the faces of the people you’re worshipping with. I will actually miss this piece of our temporary arrangement when it’s done. Because one thing I like to do is watch faces. The looks we give – to others, to those we’re listening to (or ignoring), and even to ourselves, in a way, tell quite a bit. I spent a good bit of time looking around, and kind of watching myself as well, with the awareness that those faces we make truly are out there for anyone to see.

I noticed one thing right off. It’s fun to make faces at the people up front when you’re close enough for them to notice you, and when they can’t make faces back. That’s really, really fun… perhaps a little evil, but still fun. It’s also quite enjoyable to simply be able to smile across the room to someone else looking directly in your direction – a friend, a little kid, someone you’ve never met. And what’s even MORE enjoyable is to be smiled back at (or have a tongue stuck out at you, as seems to be the case with most of my younger friends).

What I also noticed, though, is that we (self included here), give a lot of looks that DON’T communicate fun, love, or I’m-Excited-To-See-You feelings. This past Sunday was my son’s first week in “big church.” Regardless of the effectiveness of bringing a five year old into worship with a room full of grownups, he was there… and being that it was his first week, he certainly doesn’t know the rules of the road. “No, you do not have to answer the pastor’s questions out loud.” … “Yes, I’d like it if you didn’t yell out ‘I have to go poooop!’ every 15 minutes.” But besides those words… what is my body, and my tone, saying? Are they communicating disapproval? Exhaustion? Love? Driven-Up-A-Wall-edness?

You can see it anywhere you look. A parent trying to silence a kid from across the room. The “you’d better get up here” look. The “I’m actually quite THRILLED to see you look.” Or the looks of tiredness, boredom, impatience, or even disgust. So much is communicated with out the use of our mouths that you’d think we’d realize people are watching, and “listening” to what we’re saying. And if we realize that, and keep doing it, what does that say? Do we care? Do we actually MEAN what’s communicated by those inverbal “words,” whether they are privately shared or publically visible?

I’ve read numerous places that communication is only minorly made up of verbal words. I believe the going percents are 7% verbal, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language (including “the look” I’d think). So it would be very easily to say one thing and communicate something entirely different, wouldn’t it? I know I’ve poorly used an excuse that “what I said is what I meant,” even though it completely contradicted the other 90+% of my communication.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

Proverbs 18:20 The Message

So this has been a reminder to me, and a challenge, to watch what I say. And when I say “say,” I mean communicate. The Bible says many places that words can KILL someone. You can destroy a person’s heart with words, and if language is comprised much more than with words and sounds alone, what does mean we are doing with our non-verbal stabs, blut-force-traumas, and pin-pricks? I, personally, have a lot to work on. I can say without a doubt that I’ve heart hearts of those I love with sentences, which although argulably neutral based on their words, are objects of death when communicated with tone and body.

I’ve also been dealt those blows. The look of disappointment IN me. The look of someone else disappointing ME. The look of fear, of aggravation, of being tired of dealing. And in many cases, I’ve grown accustomed to running from them, or at least avoiding them by not putting my heart on the line.

All of that said… I think we grow stronger when we look around us. We see that we’re not alone, that we all DO make mistakes, and that there are tremendous opportunities to build people up through kind and simple expressions of love.

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P.S. As I’ve been writing this, and as I was thinking over vacation as well… think about this little tidbit.

The primary part of communication is body language. The secondary part of communication is tone. The last piece of communication is the actual words.

What does that mean about the technology we use? The phone… it takes out the body language (and throws in imaginary body language that is often incorrect). And after that… texts… they take out both body language AND tone and allow us to assume SO much more that is really there (or isn’t there). I’ve come to the realization that if I can have an in-person conversation with someone, even if it needs to wait, that’s the way to go. Phone is a decent second alternative (although Skype might be better), but it still causes something to be lost. And texts? While you can have a conversation of text, which I often do… you’ve got to go into it knowing that much of what you’re trying to say or trying to hear is either (1) assumed and not true or (2) assumed and true. Either way… it’s assumed. And you know what assuming does, right?

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