What did you say?

The exercise below has been sent to me a number of times via email and Facebook. I am always intrigued at how God created our brains to function.

“Take a look at this paragraph. Can you read what it says? All the letters have been jumbled (mixed). Only the first and last letter of ecah word is in the right place:

I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.” (http://www.ecenglish.com/learnenglish/lessons/can-you-read)

While this is pretty impressive, there are times that our brains don’t connect all the letters and we jump to conclusions based on the first few syllables.

Recently in one 24-hour period, three such incidences occurred. shocked smily face

  1. Our hospital serves a dish that is popular among some of the staff. Chicken Tampico is a breaded chicken breast covered with spicy cheese and Jalapenos. When one of our nurses saw it on the menu, she excitedly exclaimed:  “They have Tapioca Chicken today.” This didn’t sound appetizing at all  but the “ta” at the beginning of each word was all her brain needed to make this mistake. We laughed and retained the renamed dish in our department to this day.
  2. A short while later, a nurse lightheartedly commented on the apparent mood of another nurse. Instead of asking if she was “crabby” today, she asked if she was “cramp-y.” While the latter can indeed produce the first one, that was not the intent of her question. The initial letters of each word caused the mouth to speak a different word than the brain was thinking.
  3. Finally, on my way home from work, I stopped at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. So did a lot of other people and the line to check out was lengthening. The cashier was ringing out purchases very efficiently and answering the phone. I was impressed with her ability to multitask so well. This business answers the phone with a phrase that includes their concise mission statement followed by “May I help you?”. However, she got tripped up and said “May I hurt you?”. In the short nanosecond of realization at what she had said, she tried to correct it but the customer on the phone had hung up. Expressing shock at what she mistakenly said, those of us in line had a chuckle at the irony of a health related company offering to hurt a customer.

What are the odds that, on the same day, so many people would misspeak based on the first letter(s) of a word?

A simple slip of the tongue could be humorous or harmful depending upon the circumstances. Mistaking the name of a dish was funny to all who heard it. Asking if someone was cramp-y or crabby may be acceptable among friends, but could be offensive to acquaintances or strangers. And offering to hurt someone is never welcome.

James understood and power of spoken words and described the effects this small muscle can produce (James 3). He compares the tongue to three images: a bridle, a ship rudder, and a spark.. While individually small, their effect is not. Bridles and rudders control the actions of the whole. Individuals who are able to control this small muscle can avoid disaster. He contrasts this to the effect a small flame has in setting an entire forest aflame.

Words can change the direction of a conversation or situation for good or evil. The difference is self-control – choosing to speak words that are wise and godly can direct the conversation away from disaster. Or like a spark to wood, they can cause a situation that rages out of control. THis can happen when we jump to conclusions – much like assuming what the word is going to be based on initial letters.

Today, take time to see beyond the initial impression in seeking to understand the whole. In this way, you can be a source of help instead of hurt.

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