When Written Words Are Not Enough

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I’m a writer. I love to write, but writing has its flaws. Every word, every phrase, every sentence that flows from my heart to my keyboard isn’t always interpreted in the way I mean it. The hardest thing about writing is knowing that, sometime…somehow…somewhere…someone may get hurt.

And I hate that.

I remember how much I enjoyed writing creative stories for my high school English classes. I didn’t always write well, though. Sometimes my teachers rewarded me with A‘s, but sometimes there were so many red marks all over the pages of all my hard work and there in the top right-hand corner for all the world to see would be a big-fat C. Instead of looking at the creative content, they looked at all the misplaced commas, misused adjectives, and misconstructed phrases. I was always deeply wounded by those C‘s, but I knew it was part of the learning process.

I’ve since learned that writers each have their individual styles. I can’t say I use every bit of information I’ve ever learned about proper grammar and the right way to construct sentences. I have my own style. My sentences are fragmented and when I want to convey certain tones of my voice or certain emotions of my heart, I do all kinds of unconventional things. Like this. (I don’t think that’s really a sentence.) And this. (I don’t think I’m suppose to start a sentence with a capital And.) And this….(I don’t think leaving my thoughts hanging with a bunch of dots is proper.)

Anyways, something happened to me yesterday that has caused me to sorrow in the written word. I sent an email to a friend and it hurt her feelings.

I didn’t mean for it to hurt. But, it did.

If you’ve been keeping up with me through my blog you know I’m hearing impaired. Severely hearing impaired. Hearing aids are my constant companions and they don’t work well with my cell phone or any phone at all, for that matter. I depend greatly on the written word…email, text, Facebook, and YES! Gasp. Seriously?! I still write notes the old-fashioned way…with ink on pretty notecards. But when I want to convey serious matters or things that are very important to me, I want to talk with someone. Face-To-Face. Because I don’t believe that an email or a letter or a Facebook message can truly convey what’s in my heart.

Alas. It grieves me that it can’t always be so. Busyness gets in the way. It’s not anyone’s fault that I’m hearing impaired. This is my life. I do as much as I can to keep myself out there…to make myself sociable…to get out of the house…to get involved in people’s lives…but I’ve learned that my hearing impairment leaves me at a disadvantage when it comes to matters of the heart. I try to be as patient as I can and as understanding as I can when it comes to busyness. If email is the only way someone can communicate when busyness intervenes then, believe me, I try very hard to place my commas and use my adjectives and construct my sentences in a way that others will truly hear my heart.

And yet….sometimes…no matter how hard I try or how much I pray or how long I think before I write, I am still misunderstood.

When it comes right down to it, as beautiful and timely as written words can be, sometimes the written word just isn’t enough. Nothing can take the place of sitting beside a friend and sharing the spoken word face to face.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11

The written word doesn’t allow someone to hear the tone in my voice, or see the compassion in my face or desperation in my eyes. I don’t care how busy I am these days, I’m still a meet-me-for-coffee-kinda-girl. Maybe it’s because I’m hearing impaired, but I still believe God wants us to be face-to-face-kinda-people ’cause He’s a face-to-face-kinda-Friend.

“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 33:11. 

There are just some things that need to be said, talked about, and shared face to face. They were never meant to be put to paper or typed on a keyboard. Some things are just too important. Like this. And this. And especially this…friendship. Because even though I didn’t intentionally hurt my friend with my words…heaven knows I thought too long and hard about what I wrote to even consider it!…my written words were still misunderstood. I knew in my heart I needed a face to face but busyness got in the way and I felt backed into a corner.

I’m so glad my Faithful Friend in heaven, who knows me so well, can interpret my heart when my friends on earth misinterpret my words.

If I’m completely honest, when I unintentionally hurt someone with written words, I consider giving up writing. Just canceling my WordPress account, deleting my Facebook, ignoring my email for the rest of my life, refusing to ever send another text, but I know I can’t. This is my lifeline. This, too, is my life. Without social media I would shrivel up and die. The truth is, I need the written word to survive because hearing impaired people risk shutting themselves off every day of their lives. Hiding themselves away. Becoming hermits. Losing themselves in a very lonely place. And now, as I write this, I find the tears just flowing down my cheeks and I can’t seem to stop them.

Because I hurt someone with my words in this very lonely place.

And I hate that.

And sometimes saying I’m sorry, please forgive me needs to be done in person but busyness gets in the way of that, too. So, I’ll say it here for now and pray for the day when my friend and I can meet face to face.

Yes, I’m a writer. I may get discouraged sometimes, but I was born to write. Even as I pour out my heart writing this post I’m experiencing the healing that can only come from The One who heals. God is my Teacher. He’s forever instructing me. My Faithful Friend. For every C I find in the top right-hand corner of my paper, there are a dozen A‘s waiting around the corner, given to me by the One who upholds me by His righteous right hand.

And I love that.

“A man’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am that God will always be the Holder Of My Hand and when He speaks to me, His words will always be enough.

5 thoughts on “When Written Words Are Not Enough”

  1. So uncanny that you write about this now. An assistant leader to me hurt my trust in her deeply the other day, almost leading to her resigning her office, because of emails in which harsh things were said and I tried to avoid being dragged into responding using email. Eventually I had to call a halt to something she was doing and I hurt her feelings., The same week, I sent an email innocently asking another leader who is friends with the same assistant leader by the way, and she responded that I was rude because of a turn of phrase, ‘for the record’ that I used.

    I had not intended being rude and was seeking answers to some questions about my terms of reference that comes with my post. I requested that the elders intervened to squash the perceived conflict and emerged feeling a little scathed, and disillusioned that Christians can have such mighty chips on their shoulders. In the discussion, all these points you raised about face to face communication and carefully selecting your words were raised. In all of this I realised something though. Most times the root cause of conflicts do not stem from the message, the seemingly rude turn of phrase or even too cordial a tone can jar the nerve of one who already had negative perceptions about the sender/receiver. The communication process was already riddled with barriers before the message was encoded or decoded.

    Face to face comm is held to be the richest channel for communication as it allows messages to flow from verbal as well as nonverbal sources and can foster immediate feedback, but sometimes, in this busy world, we do need email. I guess we just have to ponder the message a little harder or avoid penning messages when we are angry or in emotional turmoil so we don’t offend. Still it is unavoidable that at some time some where, offence will come. I like your humility in dealing with the situation though. It’s always good when we can forget our selves and ask, What would Jesus do?

    1. Oh my, Karen. I needed this so much. When I first read your comments I had to stop and ponder before I replied because you said something crucial to my personal understanding when dealing with conflicts that occur in written communication…”Most times the root cause of conflicts do not stem from the message… The communication process was already riddled with barriers before the message was encoded or decoded.”

      This, I believe, is exactly what happened in the situation that inspired this post. I also believe that sometimes we have to wait a bit before further communication can take place because my friend’s reply to me also hurt my feelings. I know she was responding out of her own hurt and I truly just want to defend myself, but for me to respond at this moment might further jeopardize our relationship. Sometimes healing has to take place in the heart before honest communication can happen and that can only come from seeking God for wisdom in how to proceed and from much prayer. I still believe, whenever possible, face to face is the best way to resolve conflicts.

      I always appreciate so much your wisdom and I thank you for helping me see another perspective. Blessings, my friend.

      1. Same here Miss Nina. People are sometimes tricky to manouevre and some should definitely come with signs, “Danger! I’m sensitive.” LOL
        Just joking. You’re right about seeking God about how to process. In the email incident I shared, several times I vented what I want to really say and the voice of God kept saying to me, Don’t send it. So I parked it in Drafts. But sometimes unfortunately, not even that works, if the person is determined to continue ignoring your silence.

  2. Wonderful post , just to let you know you are not alone when you worry whether or not your words may be interpreted in a way different to how you meant, many times when writing to my children especially if they happen to be struggling with something at the time I am so so careful about how I express myself and it is indeed a headache at times and sometimes I have thought about letting all this social media stuff just go;like you I would hate to hurt anyone with my words; life seemed so much simpler without social media sometimes , now phones are definitely a scourge for me , I detest the phone at least with the written word one can slowly evaluate each sentence but the phone is so irritating to me , sometimes there is an echo which makes me imagine the person on the other side is crying or down in themselves , when I ask are you sad they laugh and I realise it is some sort of interference on the phone or my hearing which is not too amazing. I hope your friend realises soon that you never meant to hurt , this I am sure she will do when she considers how kind you are so please don’t worry about it . Please also do not stop writing your words are a joy to people reading them . I do believe in the quote ‘ you can’t please all of the people all of the time only some of the people some of the time’ not sure if I have that correct or not but that’s the gist of it . lots of happy wishes to you and Kind Regards Kathy.

    1. Thank you for sharing and for your encouragement, Kathy. It sounds like we have very similar views on social media :). I’m happy to tell you that my friend and are good. Sometimes a little bit of time and a lot of prayer is all that’s needed to put misunderstandings behind us. Sweet blessings to you and a Happy Thanksgiving, too!

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