“Don’t garble the message!”
If I heard that once during Marine boot camp, I must’ve heard it four dozen times. Again and again, our outfit was warned against hearing one thing, then passing on a slightly different version. You know, changing the message by altering the meaning a tad. It’s so easy to do, isn’t it? Especially when it’s filtered through several minds, then pushed through each mouth. It is amazing how the original story, report, or command appears after it has gone through its verbal metamorphosis.
Consider the following:
A colonel issued this directive to his executive officer:
Tomorrow evening at approximately 2000 hours, Halley’s Comet will be visible in this area, an event which occurs only once every seventy-five years. Have the men fall out in the battalion area in fatigues, and I will explain this rare phenomenon to them. In case of rain we will not be able to see anything, so assemble the men in the theatre and I will show them films of it.
Executive officer to company commander:
By the order of the colonel, tomorrow at 2000 hours, Halley’s Comet will appear above the battalion area. If it rains fall the men out in fatigues; then march to the theatre where the rare phenomenon will take place, something which occurs only once every seventy-five years.
Company commander to lieutenant:
By order of the colonel in fatigues at 2000 hours tomorrow evening, the phenomenal Halley’s Comet will appear in the theatre. In case of rain in the battalion area, the colonel will give another order, something which occurs once every seventy-five years.
Lieutenant to sergeant:
Tomorrow at 2000 hours, the colonel, in fatigues, will appear in the theatre with Halley’s Comet, something which happens every seventy-five years. If it rains, the colonel will order the comet into the battalion area.
Sergeant to squad:
When it rains tomorrow at 2000 hours, the phenomenal seventy-five-year-old General Halley, accompanied by the colonel, will drive his Comet through the battalion area theatre in fatigues.
Garbled messages aren’t unique to the military. They provide the perfect fuel for gossip sessions and just the right ingredient for slanderous slams. Garbled messages are dangerous; they can ruin our relationships and hurt our homes. God’s style of communication doesn’t leave much margin for generalities or mixed messages. Let’s strive to speak the truth, accurately and in love, shall we? We’ll talk more about miscommunication tomorrow.
Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.