Privacy Matters

Privacy Matters

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Patients’ information in the US is protected by HIPAA. Specifically, “The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also gives patients rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections” (hhs.gov).

We expect and demand that our privacy be protected when it comes to healthcare (and personal information in general). If that trust is breached, we may consider taking legal action against the trust breaker.

When it comes to our marriages, do we extend that same courtesy to our spouses? Or do we vent our frustrations about them to anyone who listens?

When it comes to personal information shared in confidence, do we extend that same courtesy to our Christian family? Or do we share that info with those in our personal circle?

When it comes to sensitive information we may have about someone in the church (or anywhere!), do we treat them with the same level of respect and discretion that we expect from those in the medical field or information technology fields? There are some exceptions to this principle (as common sense dictates), but we sometimes find ourselves sharing or listening to information we have no business sharing or consuming.

In short, if we expect this level of respect and discretion from the professional world, should we not do the same for those in God’s family?

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (Prov. 20:19, ESV). 

 

No Answer

No Answer

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

In December of 1971, the UK band, Electric Light Orchestra, released an eponymously titled album. In the United States, however, we know this album by a different name. Why is that? In the US, ELO released their music through United Artists Records. Someone from UAR had attempted to contact ELO’s manager to ascertain what the album’s title for its US release. Unable to reach him, the UAR representative had jotted down the words, “no answer.”

The misinterpretation of the message led to the unintentional titling of ELO’s first US release.  And so, in early 1972, Americans could buy the new British band’s first studio-recorded album,  No Answer1 This album mishap is an amusing example of miscommunication. When such miscommunication takes place in personal relationships, however, the results more often are destructive.

Relationships can be severed because some miscommunication led to an argument. Within such cases, the injured party failed to discern the message of the perceived injurer. Sadly, they don’t go to that person, and on some occasions they go to a third party, sympathetic to their interests. At this point, the one initially misunderstood has two people angry at him or her without cause. Perhaps, in response, this misunderstood person will likewise go to yet another party, someone understanding of his or her position in the matter. It is incredible to see how many people can quickly become embroiled in something that ultimately is only a misunderstanding between two people!

New Testament scripture addresses this problem and provides a solution. Unfortunately, it may be one of the most ignored precepts of Christian doctrine. Jesus Himself gave this precept as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 18.15-17). Whenever you feel that another party has done something injurious to you, you are to go to that individual privately to resolve the problem. If that person does not listen to you, then you are permitted to bring one or two others with you in another attempt to be reconciled to him or her. If that fails, then you have permission to bring the matter to the attention of the greater community. When the community (in this instance, the assembly or church) encourages that person to reconcile with the other party, and he or she refuses a third time, then one can sever that relationship formally. One does not break ties before the extension of three opportunities for reconciliation, however.

So, the next time someone says or does something that you do not understand, give them the benefit of the doubt. Go to the one you feel has offended you first. Do not gossip about the “offender” to another. Do what you can to fix the problem as soon as you can. No answer, on the other hand, is not an acceptable solution.

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A later ELO album (1977)

REFERENCE

1 Mikkelson, David. “Electric Light Orchestra’s No Answer.” Snopes.com, Snopes Media Group Inc., 19 Dec. 2012, www.snopes.com/fact-check/no-answer/.

The Art Of Conversation

The Art Of Conversation

Neal Pollard

With conversation, when both are active listeners, you are exchanging ideas. Along with this, there’s body language and tone of voice which give clues to what the words mean to the speaker. You negotiate, reason, affirm or deny, and continue through these patterns while discussing any number of subjects. This process is invaluable to building relationships, working together, and even evangelism. For all its advantages, social media lacks almost all of those dimensions.

MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle, in the book Reclaiming Conversation (New York: Penguin, 2015), makes the case that we are talking more than ever but we’ve lost the art of conversation.  Turkle observes, “From the early days, I saw that computers offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship and then, as the programs got really good, the illusion of friendship without the demands of intimacy” (7).  What demands? Paying attention, building trust, having empathy, and giving thoughtful responses (as opposed to rude, reckless ones). 

I’m not trying to militate against the use of social media platforms, texting, or emailing. But the more we gravitate toward those to do our “communicating,” the less we successfully navigate the more difficult, yet more rewarding, art of conversation.

When we read the Bible, we are struck–from beginning to end–with the pervasive importance of dialogue and conversation. From Genesis one, where we read the Godhead’s conversation, “Let us make man…,” to Jesus’ conversation with John in Revelation 22, conversation is indispensable. Not only did God create interpersonal relationships and the vehicle of conversation to build them, but He models it throughout the pages of Scripture.

This article seeks to inform, teach, and even persuade, but it is only one dimension of communication. One might argue that other forms of communication are not only necessary, but in many cases will be more effective. The snippets and soundbites of social media postings, much more condensed and lacking context, while being pithy and thought-provoking, are no substitute for what happens face to face in the tension, hard work, and unpredictable dynamic of conversation. Conversation necessitates practice, attention, and mental engagement. 

From the dawn of time, God observed that it’s not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). As suggested by the title of another book by Turkle, Alone Together, we find ourselves increasingly isolated from others and more ill-equipped for building real life relationships. The antidote to that is simple and so attainable.

Let’s engage people more. Let’s resort more to making real life connections and less to hiding behind screens. Let’s look for opportunities to do this with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Let’s connect more in real life. As with anything, the more we practice the better we’ll get at it. 

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Photo credit: Michael Hite

 

Communication Landmines

Communication Landmines

Neal Pollard

Paul writes two letters of instruction to Timothy, the preacher at Ephesus. As his father in the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18), Paul wanted the younger man endowed with the wisdom and courage to be God’s man.  Timothy would face pressures and temptations from many different directions. The apostle’s words also provide some common sense to help him do the sometimes difficult task of preaching and ministry.

In a letter full of the theme of godliness, 1 Timothy, Paul gives him some intriguing encouragement in the sixth chapter. He says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (6:3-5). In this brief admonition, he gives Timothy several tips to help him be a useful communicator of God’s truth. He urges Timothy to avoid:

  • Compromise. Not only here, but throughout the letter, Paul urges Timothy to teach the pure doctrine of Christ, those sound words and that godly doctrine. If we bow to pressures and change the revealed word of Christ, we become deadly communicators.
  • Conceit. Ironically, the conceited often look down upon others. Yet, Paul ties the arrogance to ignorance (“understands nothing”). When we encounter one who condescendingly communicates, we are prone to tune them out even if they are telling the truth. It is incongruous to have a pompous preacher speak of the lowly Jesus. It’s a credibility killer.
  • Controversy. We live in the age of controversy. It is splashed all over the traditional media and social media. It is often manufactured, and it is the mark of a morbid (literally, “sick”) mind. The controversialist will be found at the heart of disputes, ever seeking to dig up something, hash and rehash it, and keep it going. We can be accused of that for simply trying to communicate God’s will, especially when unpopular, but some are never far from contention. It is characteristic of them.
  • Constant friction. This is listed last among several other results of controversy, along with envy, strife, abusive language, and evil suspicions. Have you ever been around someone who keeps up an atmosphere of tension? The chip is always on the shoulder. Their communication is always confrontational. It appeals to the depraved and deprived, according to Paul.

Paul was so bold that he would die for preaching the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8). Yet, he urged Timothy to be peaceable, kind, adept, patient, and gentle when communicating it (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Is it possible to courageously stand with the Christ but do so using the precise scalpel of Scripture (Heb. 4:12) rather than the reckless explosives of excess? Yes, and each of us must predetermine that we will do so no matter how others act and react.

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Bad Breath Babbling

Bad Breath Babbling

Neal Pollard

You want to do some appetizing research?  Go to the Mayo Clinic website and read about what causes bad breath. The harbingers of halitosis include food that gets stuck in your teeth, tobacco, poor dental hygiene, dry mouth (this occurs most frequently when sleeping at night, thus “morning breath”), oral infections, and many similar pleasant precipitators (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bad-breath/basics/causes/CON-20014939).  Now isn’t that a joyful matter to ponder!

Well, have you considered the very graphic imagery Paul uses in Ephesians 4:29 to describe improper speech?  He says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth…”  That word “unwholesome” is an interesting word (ESV—”corrupting”).  It is from a Greek word meaning “to cause to decay” (TDNT).  The footnote of my Bible says “literally, rotten.”  The Greeks used the word to describe what offends the sense of sight and smell, but it came to describe even offensive sounds as an ancient fragment from Theopompus Comicus used the word to describe the “unpleasant sounds of flutes” (CAF, I, 746). They used the word to describe bad vegetables and rotting fish (WSNTDICT).

Notice what the Holy Spirit through Paul does with the word.  In guiding the Ephesians in how not to walk, Paul gets graphic by warning against “smelly speech.”  Get the picture by considering the descriptive word.  When you talk, does what you say have the figurative effect of compost, fish carcasses, and the like?  Or, let us come at it by way of contrast, as Paul does.  Instead of uttering waste dump words, use “only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Throw away trashy speech through uplifting, timely, graceful talk!  Is what you say helpful to others? Does it build them up? Does it bring them closer to Christ? Is it just the right word at the right time?  If so, it’s like moral mouthwash!

If not, then let God’s diagnosis hit home!  Clean up your conversations.  Make sure what you say to others is to them a breath of fresh air!