Communication: Isn’t the Message Important?

Let me start this blog post with a question: what’s the point of communication?

If I’m understanding it correctly, we communicate with one another for the sole purpose of exchanging information and ideas. I have a message I want to communicate to you. You have a message you want to communicate in return. When both of us to do so effectively, we each understand the message of the other.

This leads to a second question: if the message conveyed is a lie, what does it matter how good a communicator the liar is?

This is where things get sticky. They get sticky because you and I seem to be more concerned with the style of the communicator then the substance of what’s being communicated. To make my point I’ll cover three areas all of us should be familiar with: business and marketing, politics and culture, and faith and religion.

Business and Marketing

One of the dirty little secrets of marketing is that the effective marketer creates a need in order to sell a product that is neither essential nor of any particular value. A customizable cell phone case is but one example. There is no real necessity or value in creating a cell phone case of a particular color, yet all weekend I was deluged with TV commercials to that effect while watching football.

That said, messaging in the business and marketing realm goes far deeper than convincing a group of shallow cell phone owners they need overpriced cases. There are plenty of occasions where marketing is nothing more than out and out lies. Case in point: Reebok claiming their EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes were useful in helping to tone the legs and buttocks. The FTC took them to task and forced them to stop using advertising claims they could not prove.

Over the years we’ve seen the FTC go after herbal supplement makers, vacuum cleaner manufacturers, prepaid phone cards suppliers, and so on. What’s more, our innate common sense tells us when marketing claims are untrue. We’re all familiar with the old adage that says if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So back to the question: if a marketing message is a lie, does it really matter how effective the liar is? No. Ignore the lie and don’t buy the product.

Politics and Culture

Thanks to the selfish and arrogant ruling class of American politics, we are currently embroiled in a culture war unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Those at the top have managed to pit average Americans against one another by manipulating the idea of “fair play.” And as you know, our leaders are lying to us on a daily basis.

When our leaders are lying to us, does it really matter how well they communicate those lies? Be careful before you answer.

All through the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections we heard nothing about President Obama’s beliefs or policies. All we heard was the fact that he was an excellent communicator. I disagree. I personally think he is one of the worst communicators I have ever had the displeasure of listening to in the arena of politics.

You see, to me the truth of the message is more important than the style in which it is communicated. I don’t care if the President uses just the right words and phrases, sheds a tear at just the right time, or charms the crowd with a smile. If he is lying his communications aren’t worth the teleprompter they are being displayed on. Remember:

  • you can keep your health plan and doctor if you want to
  • the Affordable Care Act will bring down the cost of health insurance
  • under an Obama presidency there will be no tax increases

The lies of this president are too numerous to list in this space. But he’s not alone. You could make the case that Washington, as a unit, is incapable of telling the truth. Yet we are quick to believe everything they say when it comes time to vote. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me year after year and I should be committed to an insane asylum.

Faith and Religion

The last of the three topics is the most important of all. After all, death is the ultimate equalizer. In the end it won’t matter that you bought Reebok shoes or that you voted for President Obama. In the end what matters is what you believe about Jesus Christ and the gospel message.

All across the world there are numbers of man-made religions all promising salvation and the payment of sin through the good works we can do. There are lots of people communicating this message with plenty of style and pinache. Yet it is a lie. How do I know? First, because I believe what the Bible says. If you don’t, there’s a second piece of evidence.

If we are to pay for our own sins through the good things we can do, who defines both the sin and the good works? There has to be some standard of reference in order to determine what’s wrong and the good works that will pay for it. Here’s the conundrum: what you deem as right or wrong is likely different from what someone else deems right or wrong.

Did you know that a man living in Iran can murder his wife, without a trial or evidence, if he suspects she has been unfaithful? That’s completely acceptable and morally right in that country. Likewise, it is morally acceptable to amputate the fingers of a thief as payment for his crimes. Who’s to say that’s right or wrong?

The truth is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that takes the equation out of the hands of mankind and leaves it in the hands of the Creator. No man-made religious system does that. But let’s not stop there, what about you and I who claim to be born-again Christians?

There are lots of well-polished lies that so-called Bible teachers are telling every day. How about:

  • God wants you to be financially prosperous
  • you can “speak” healing into your life
  • salvation is all that really matters, personal holiness does not
  • the Old Testament saints were saved by the blood of their offerings
  • generational curses are ruining your life
  • we need to “be in love with Jesus”
  • “knowing God” is the goal of Christianity

Again, I don’t have enough space to list all of the lies being spoken from American pulpits. They are just as numerous as the lies coming out of Washington. So what does it matter how well the preacher speaks if what he’s communicating is not true?

As a professional communicator it is my job to not only convey a message effectively, it’s also to convey it accurately. I have an obligation to the truth. If I communicate lies, there’s no point in me communicating anything at all. Lies are simply of no value. What’s more, they are destructive by their very nature.

It’s time you and I pay attention to the content of the message instead of its delivery. Otherwise, we allow ourselves to be swept away by effective and polished liars.

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