Ask yourself this question, do the words I use matter? The answer should be a resounding, “Yes!” rhetoric is the art of discourse; an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. A rhetorical device is a technique an author or speaker uses to convey to the listener or reader a meaning with the goal of persuading him or her toward their perspective.
There is a true art to the creative use of the most powerful and simple of words. These are skill sets we learn as children in our homes, schools and playgrounds. A classmate of mine in the 4th grade, named Travis, paid a high personal price because of certain words used on the playground one day. Travis was known for being the “cool” kid and held the record for swinging the highest on the swing set.
On a cool fall day, as he was doing his “swing thing,” some of the cute girls started to challenge him to jump out of the swing when it was as high as he could go. (Please note that he had a pretty deep crush on one of the blond girls.) At first he refused. Then came the onslaught of never-changing playground rhetoric. “We dare you,” did not even warrant a response. “We double dare you,” received a, “Nah.” Then there was the, “We triple dog dare you.” The next thing we saw was Travis flying through the air doing his best Superman impression.
The problem was he couldn’t actually fly. Interesting thing about gravity: It is not a respecter of how cool you are or what sports you play. It treats us all the same, and he fell to the earth like a lifeless sack of Idaho potatoes. When he hit the ground, we didn’t hear the “thud” of flesh to the dirt. We heard the “crack” of bones. You see, he made the error of trying to arrest his fall with his arms and broke both of them above the wrists. He was the center of attention that interesting season as we watched him try to do his class work with both hands in casts.
There are always those who will push us to do immoral and destructive things, yet we have the God given, moral obligation to say, “No.”
How often do we become the center of attention because of our acquired injuries that result from the unsolicited taunts of others? Probably more than any of us want to admit. Consider for a moment all the young people in our broken society who are hospitalized or die from the unnecessary over encouragement of their so called friends.
They, like us, need to know there is a way out. Do you know the word that has the power to deliver you and me from almost any situation? This word is known for its universal power to change the momentum of any life or situation spiraling out of control. That word, “No!” If you have not mastered the innumerable uses of this simple yet multifaceted word, your existence may feel as if it’s coming completely unhinged.
What about the needs people have? I would say we need to help any time and in any way we can…when we can. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you. Do not devise evil against your neighbor for he dwells by you for safety’s sake. Do not strive with a man without cause if he has done you no harm.” (Prov. 3:27-30)
God called each of us to help whenever we can. But if you try to help all the time, you will continually be consumed by everyone who touches your life.
Be careful of what you commit yourself to, because God will hold us to account for our words. Jesus said, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matt. 5:37) At times, people will come to you, instead of going to God, to get help. Guess what? You’re not God. You can’t meet every need of a dying world.
Some days, as ministers of God, we need to prayerfully consider saying, “No.” This will help us to stay healthy, both mentally and physically, for the days when we’re called into the deep end of the pool to help rescue as many drowning sinners as we can.