Recently in an email, someone explained that he was “reaching out to me” and I was to “reach out back to him.” The only reaching out in my family was to knock my brother’s hand away from my waffle. Hasn’t reaching out spelled trouble for people in the past? Dillinger reached out for money; Jesse James had a thing for reaching out to banks; not to mention Hollywood moguls reaching out to have sex with anything that moves.
Yes, it’s just the latest buzz phrase, but what happened to “give me a call,” send me a text,” “don’t you ever call me again!” (sorry, that last one was from my banker) Those seemed to work pretty well for a few years. Of course there were more esoteric requests dependent on vocational aptitude. The military is a favorite; “Listen jerk, you have one day to get back to me or I’ll run your ass from here to hell!” It has authority, gets the point across and gives a timetable to fulfill the request. Of course, that’s the only military request that I can print without alarming the censors and the squeamish.
Of course my mother was the master of direct communication: “What’s your problem?” “Who died and left you in charge?” “Get your rear end out there and work!” “Are your legs broke? Get moving mister!” “If I wanted your opinion I’d slap it out of you.” (I always get a little teary thinking of her unique love language.)
As you can see, mom was a motivational speaker who minced no words, brooked no argument, stood firm on clarity and was Irish. Can you understand then why her progeny only comprehend direct words and fail to grasp the grating, grizzly, germinations of generalizations that are buzz phrases like “reaching out?” Direct communication seems to be a lost art; buried beneath the not so benign boasts, braggadocio, bravado, bluster and bombasts of diplomats and politicians.
Pope Francis uses a term that some maintain helped him ascend the Chair of Peter. Surprisingly, it has never become a buzz word or part of a buzz phrase. The Holy Father speaks often of people and institutions being self-referential. This is NOT a good thing. At the risk of oversimplification, being self-referential is being right because, well, you’re right. If you don’t believe me, just ask me. (favorite of mine: “Are you going to believe me or your lyin’ eyes!) We refer back to ourselves and/or an institution when we should be referring back to Jesus and His will. It’s not what I want, it’s what the Lord wills. “Thy will be done.” Does that sound familiar?
Now get off your rear end and start moving!