My English teacher was right! Pronouns are so important.
I’ve recently been reading a book on grace. The author is attempting to point out areas for emphasis within the body of Christ. I’ve never met the man, but I am finding myself struggling not to judge him as arrogant.
Why? He constantly makes statements against the church, pointing the finger to show them the error of their ways.
This might be the most humble man in the world, but his use of pronouns is not unifying. He does not include himself in the church. It seems as if they are the problem and he has the answer.
I do, in fact, agree with many of his statements. I do believe there is a proper place to call ourselves to a greater awareness and restoration of truth. However, I believe we can do this without belittling and creating the appearance of having the corner on truth.
It’s really a simple matter of pronouns.
Which sounds better?
“The church is missing the truth of grace.”
“We can grow in applying the truth of grace.”
One is inclusive, the other accusatory.
One statement points out the problem, the other includes the speaker in the solution.
Words like “we” and “us” communicate more than “you”, “them”, “those people”, and “the church.”
When I teach on grace, if I refer to “the church”, I make sure to clarify that I am not pointing the finger at a particular body or denomination. We are all the church. We are all apart of the problem and hopefully the solution.
We do this all the time, in various areas of life.
In the missions group I work with, when things are forgotten or left undone, we often blame “the base” or “the leaders”. This is easy to do, sometimes for reason as simple as creating an outlet for our frustration.
But at its core, we must ask a simple question.
Who is the base? It is not a building or a floating entity which disrupts the best laid plans. The base consists of the people. The answer to “who is the base?”, is, “We are” or “I am”.
In a church context, we must ask, “Who is the church?” We are. I am.
In a company or in a family, the same applies.
“Who is the company?”
“Who is the family?”
I am. We are.
A simple change in pronouns can have a tremendous impact on our communication.
Here are 3 benefits to using the words “we” and “us”.
1. Humility – When we are inclusive in our language it links us to the problem, rather than placing ourselves above it. It creates a sense of togetherness. The word we can give us the ability to speak into situations, rather than placing people on the defensive.
2. Inclusivity and Unity– It no longer is an us and them, but a sense of team and connectedness. We can tear down the walls of management and laborers, older and younger, or veterans and rookies.
3. Part of the solution rather than the whistleblower on the problem – This conveys a person’s desire to see change rather than standing off in a corner, lobbing accusations and criticism. The truth will be heard with more clarity when we communicate properly.
What else would you add to this list? Give a simple example of how a change of language brought a different light to an issue in your ministry, business, or family?