He is a college freshman this fall, but he doesn't have the most polished and sophisticated social skills. He is, in fact, a bit shy and introverted. A bit of a computer geek. Didn't date much in high school. But Jill bowled him over when they met at the summer mixer for incoming students.

As he was taking her to the dorm to drop her off for the evening, his mind was racing. He wanted to kiss her goodnight, but did he dare make the move? She is so special. He didn't want to spoil things with her before they really even started. So he debated with himself. His palms were sweaty. He had a plan.

He would be subtle. His idea was to thank her for the evening, lean toward her, and just kiss her forehead. And he did! "Thanks for a wonderful evening," he said. "I had a really nice time."

To his bewilderment, she smiled at him and cooed in the sweetest voice, "A little lower, please."

So in the deepest, basso-profondo voice — sounding almost like James Earl Jones's resonant articulation — he repeated his words fully an octave lower than the first time: "Thanks for a wonderful evening. I had a really nice time."

Communication is tricky! Our words don't always come out right. We sometimes miss the cues people are trying to give us. We think we are responding appropriately, and only later do we realize how foolish we have been.

  • "All people are created equal" sometimes really meant "unless you are female, African, Asian, handicapped, or poor."
  • "Honey, these condoms can help protect you" was reasonably understood to mean that sexual activity was expected of her.
  • "We value your business" begins to sound hollow as a company slogan when customers wait needlessly only to be treated rudely.
  • Our words don't always come out right.
  • "But, sweetheart, you know I love you!" isn't enough to make her stay after he has hit her and blacked her eye — again.
  • "Shut up and put on those church clothes!" hardly seems to communicate the sort of religion kids will want to continue going to church to hear about.

Sometimes the things we communicate — or fail to communicate — with our words are wildly funny. Sometimes they confuse us and throw us into momentary panic. Sometimes they are positively tragic and destroy relationships that matter.

Jesus once made this point by asking, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46). Good question, don't you think?