Feb 222013 12 Responses

No Words Are Perfect

Words are never perfect.

I came across a list of What To Say To A Diagnosis of Down Syndrome. It’s a good list and a great resource for those who have family or friends who have given birth to a child with Down Syndrome.

There is only one problem with the list. Several of the answers irritate me.

As a father of a child with Down syndrome the last thing I would have wanted to hear in the hospital room after my daughter’s birth were: “You were one of the lucky one’s blessed by God” or “your child is perfect” or “You’ve been blessed with a child who will always love you.”

True or not, these words do not match what I was feeling in the moment.

However, the list was composed by parents of children with Down syndrome. These are the words which meant the most to new parents or the words which parents wished people would’ve said to them.

Notice the irony—what one expert believes is the exact thing to say, another person finds offensive, insensitive or untrue.

So it is with words. There are no perfect words.

There are no words which fit every situation and ring true to every set of ears.

This is what makes communication so difficult. We think we know the exact thing to say, but when we say it, we do not achieve the effect we hoped.

The problem is we over-estimate the importance of words and underestimate the importance of relationship.

Communication is more about heart than words.

Chances are, if I had a relationship with the person who spoke any of the above phrases to me, they would not have been offensive. However, just reading them off of a website without relationship they seem empty and I can think of better things to say. 

When communicating, consider the following:

Think about words. While no words are perfect, many words are offensive. There are some things we should not say. Proper thought should go into the words we use.

Listening trumps speaking. Words are important, but hearing them is more important than saying them. Nothing communicates concern like listening. Words which follow listening are more informed and given more grace than words which precede listening. 

No matter your words, communicate your heart. Considering words is important, but our focus should be on revealing our hearts. Whether we say it right or not, when we communicate we should work hard to express our hearts.

Because no words are perfect, we shouldn’t expect perfection from others or ourselves. We should attempt to be compassionate, forgiving, and understanding when we speak and listen.

What words meant the most to me the day our daughter was born with Down syndrome? “Congratulations and I’m sorry.” To me, they recognized both the joy and the sadness of the day. To others, they might be offensive, because no words are perfect.  

12 Responses to No Words Are Perfect
  1. Gregory Kuhn Reply

    But let everyone on be Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger…I have told myself this verse thousands of times. If I can ever actually start applying it, I am certain it will make me a much kinder and thoughtful person. Thanks for the reminder Kevin. Blessings!

  2. jbradmd Reply

    Wonderfully said, thank you. I feel a special attachment to your little girl.

  3. Mel C Reply

    Thank you for this insight. It was a great reminder. I have heard ‘lower your expectations and increase your committment’. Which is another great tidbit of wisdom!

    • Kevin Reply

      That is a great word.

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