Oops! Did I Really Mean to Say That?

for the week of June 11, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

On his Web site in Menlo Park, California, Robert Half posts resumé gaffes submitted from all over the world. People applying for jobs who are either too lazy or too careless to proofread their resumés for bloopers make headlines there. A few of the classic lines posted to date include the following:

* "Being in trouble with the law, I moved quite frequently." (That happens.)
* "Please don't regard my 14 positions as job-hopping. I never once quit a job." (Is getting fired a better reason for leaving a job than quitting?)
* "Skills: Excellent memory; strong math aptitude; excellent memory." (I'll bet this poor soul doesn't even remember submitting a resumé!)
People aren't guilty of verbal indiscretions only on job applications either. We commit the same sort of error in our careless statements to one another. Maybe you've smirked at — perhaps even used — trite lines such as these:

* "So tell me how you're doing!" (You know she doesn't really care and wouldn't listen if you actually began telling her what's going on in your life.)
* "If I can help, just let me know." (Secretly, you're already thinking of reasons to refuse if he should have the audacity to ask something of you.)
* "I'll pray for you." (Please don't use this one without really meaning it. It indicts you twice — both lying to a person and feigning piety before God!)
Speaking of our words before God, what about the things we say to him? I fear that even our prayers can be hollow, if we are guilty of these offenses:
* "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (But we know of specific situations in which we are resisting God's will.)
* "Bless the hungry and poor, homeless and abused, sick and dying." (Isn't there a way for you to help God answer a prayer for one of these souls?)
* "Not my will, but yours be done." (This one is always dangerous for me!)
Garbled lines on resumés are good for a laugh. But some of the other misleading and counterfeit uses of language just might fall under this rubric from Jesus: "I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37, NRSV).

Be careful to say what you mean and to mean what you say. To live consistently with one's own words is the very heart of personal integrity.

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