“Pause in silence to understand a presence.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Grammar is not a strength of mine, especially commas. Sometimes I imagine all of my former English teachers reading the first drafts of these weekly notes and collapsing in utter disappointment. Recently, I sent an email outlining some action items I wanted a few team members to accomplish. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for being so proactive and clear. How blessed my colleagues are to have me! A few weeks later, I referenced said award-winning email in a meeting. The attendees had a confused face. One person asked, "You wanted that for next year, right?" I had mentioned two different things, one for right now and one for next year. I promptly reminded those in attendance of this fact though their faces remained the same. Together, we all looked at my email on the big screen in the room, which said very clearly, "We need to make sure that the X is available and probably Y for next year." I motioned to the screen gloatingly. "I think you missed a comma," another colleague said gently. I felt the award being ripped from my hands. One comma changed the entire meaning of my message by 365 days.
If one missing comma (or an incorrectly placed paren) can affect my written message so profoundly, what else in my approach to daily life and leadership might be punctuating my effectiveness in relating to others? Am I pausing, reflecting, and revising my actions before I hit send? Instead of assuming I am communicating my intended message, do I circle back to make sure it’s actually been received? In my correspondence with the Lord, do I read His reply too quickly to pick up the subtle distinctions or am I simply skimming? Don’t even get me started on semicolons.