We’ve seen what happens when words are chosen poorly.

The other day, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of respiratory therapists. They are under appreciated. I should probably share that part of my presentation, too. But for today, I decided to offer you some words about words as I talked to them about conversational breathing treatments.


When I walk into a hospital room, when a patient is on the phone, they often say, “I have to go. The doctor is here.”

And I say, “I’m not the right kind of doctor.”

But for you, today, I may be the right kind of doctor for what ails you. I didn’t actually study theology, I studied communication. Particularly how we use language to reflect and shape meaning. Rhetoric is the name for it.

You might have heard of it. Every time someone says, “That’s just rhetoric.” As if words don’t do things.

For our time today, I want to talk about how words — and conversation —
can help us heal at a time when we deeply need healing.

We’ve seen what happens when words are chosen poorly.
We talked about social distancing rather than physical distancing and had relationships suffer unnecessarily.
We talk about virtual meetings rather than online meetings, and missed that actual people were actually talking about actual situations and making actual, not virtual, decisions.
We talk about people dying alone and forget that alone actually looked like RTs and techs and nurses holding hands.

The ways that we use our words has real implications.

Here’s what I know about words: the way we use words as we interact creates meaning
In verbal interaction with another person, we remember, we learn, we understand, we create.

We choose words and put them together into statements and questions that will help people do what they need to do.

And in the same way that you add medication to the air that people breath to treat what is happening in their lungs and bodies,
and in the same way that you give people toys to blow in that will loosen congestion and bring better airflow,
we can add some reflection and intention to our conversations, and we can expect that we will be healthier.

“In our lives, we converse almost as long as we breathe.”
But that doesn’t mean we don’t need help sometimes to converse, and breath, better.