On the outset, I recognize the complete irony of this post.  That I’m adding five hundred words or so to the maelstrom of content we call the Internet and then pointing out the problems of words being used too much on the Internet… it is a bit duplicitous, I know.  Yet at some point, someone has to say something. In our culture today, far too often words lose meaning.

When it comes to my speaking, I sometimes get teased for my vocabulary.  At times unintentionally and at times not, I’ll use a word in my talk that not everyone knows.  Truthfully, there are times when I use a term I think is commonplace only to find out later that it falls under the “nerds-only syntax” category. Other times, I’ll select a word I think is best, knowing that not everyone may know it, but hope that it will catch their attention and cause them to lean into what I’m saying and its significance.

The Internet is generally targeted at the lowest common denominator, and so the same sets of words get recycled again and again in varying contexts until they reach their demise as a hashtag: where all once good words go to die.  Hashtags are a useful tool for spreading a message but a weapon against meaning. By intention they thrive on repetition.  As a result, we have a new American lexicon, filled with a drastically less impactful vocabulary than a generation ago.  We’ve overused words to the point that they’re beyond hackneyed—they’ve been high-jacked.

Hashtags are a useful tool for spreading a message, but a weapon against meaning. Click To Tweet

Take a word like brave.  Bravery used to be a virtue reserved for those who truly confronted things which required deep, personal sacrifice.  Men storming beaches on D-Day are brave.  Christians worshipping in China under threat of martyrdom are brave.  Women who must sacrifice body parts that have defined their femininity in order to battle disease are brave.

words-matter-squareDoing something that could make you kind of uncomfortable?  Having a hard conversation?  Moving into a new town or a new job or a new setting?  It might be #brave but it’s certainly not in the category of true bravery.

No one would honestly equate the storming of Omaha Beach with having to move cities, but somehow—in our digital age—both qualify as brave.

I picked brave, but substitute any number of words: blessed, awesome, etc. In every case, these words that once were reserved for greatness are now retweeted with impunity, watering down the language until it loses meaning.

Why does it matter?  Because when leaders speak, their words need to matter; they need to have heft, weight, meaning.  Those who teach have an obligation to be safeguards of language: picking the right words, not just any words.  Leaders must pursue precision of language, rather than further water down the meaning of words that once penetrated the soul.

When leaders speak, their words need to matter. #Language #Leadership Click To Tweet

Salvation comes from hearing of the Word.

Be sure people hear it well, accurately, and with the weight and significance that the greatest Story and greatest News deserve.