A matter of the heart

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NIV).

January 4, 2012 | Editorial | Number 1
Dick Benner | Editor/Publisher

As we enter the year 2012, one of my goals for Canadian Mennonite and for its primary readership—members of the faith community of Mennonite Church Canada—is to maintain a high level of conversation that fills the pages of this publication.

In this information age, driven more and more by the Internet, we live in a sea of words and visual images. The electronic media and social networking have come to dominate much of our waking hours. You would think that in a time of many tools of communication at our disposal, we would be more understanding of each other; more efficient in decision-making; more capable of working through issues that require logic, common sense, goodwill and good judgment—all leading us to a higher quality of life, a state of being approaching nirvana.

Sadly, no. As so many of us have experienced, having more ways of communicating doesn’t necessarily improve our relationships with each other. Because, as the poet who wrote the words of Psalm 19 in ancient times succinctly indicates, “words” are linked inextricably to a matter of the heart—and to a God who stabilizes our living as the “rock” and “redeemer” of these actions.

There is a context to our communicating that is easy to miss in the rush of words and images in our modern age. Much more goes into our communication than the words and flashy images that are created each day to command our attention.

May I suggest a few non-verbal guidelines for the new year to raise the awareness of the “heart” issues of good communication:

• make listening a part of talking. It is not an idle adage to note that God gave us two ears and one mouth in his wisdom of creation. We can many times learn much more by listening to the other person’s point of view, his or her life narrative, a story of struggle and anxiety in shared matters, or simply enjoying the good humour, the delight of hearing another’s words in a conversation.

I have established an editorial practice when receiving an angry letter or hearing from someone who adamantly opposes my point of view, to pick up the phone and call them to discuss the issue and to probe with questions what might lie behind his/her angst. It is amazing how this simple act of “communication” changes the dynamic of the communication.

In talking voice-to-voice, I am able to humanize the exchange, show an interest in where the person might be coming from and establish a relationship with a person who is oftentimes a stranger. Our communication becomes much more than words on a piece of paper. It becomes heart-to-heart.

• identify yourself. One of the curses of the Internet is that persons can hide behind aliases, anonymity, monologues of non-persons. It is a cowardly act, one totally lacking in accountability for words and messages. In the faith community, we are members one of another. We have covenanted to be each other’s “bread and wine.” If we can’t stand behind our words with full identification, our words are empty and lacking completely in credibility and “heart.”

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