Lost in translation

NRS Luke 14:34 “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?

MIT Luke 14:34 Salt is useful. But if the salt you obtain is a low-percentage admixture, what will you use for seasoning?

I have a computer program that is a bible godsend. It allows me to look at several versions of the bible alongside one another so I can compare word choices, as well as look up specific words and see where they appear in the text, and a bunch of other “cool” stuff. (I use the quotation marks because I know the use of the word cool is subjective. Very subjective.)

The MIT stands for MacDonald Idiomatic Translation. Essentially what that means is this: when looking at original language, for example Hebrew or Greek, words are often translated word for word. In an idiomatic translation, the work is done by taking the native text and holding true to its original idea.

Are your eyes glazing over? Yes? Hold on and stay with me…

I was amused when I came across this bible verse recently, and the way in which one idea is relayed through two unique sentences. One is poetic, the other is, well, more like it was written by Bill Nye, The Science Guy. If you were confused by salt and the restoration of its flavor, you must really wonder about the admixture.

We speak past one another all the time. Even in English, the native tongue. The ability to understand isn’t always about higher education or syntax. Frequently, it is a mixture of context, experience and the desire to seek to understand. In our native mortal state, we are selfish. We want to be heard. (“She  didn’t even listen to what I had to say.” ) However, when we try to reach out, we frame up our words in ways that others just can’t, or refuse, to understand. We pepper the thoughts with emotions that aren’t palatable, gestures that don’t invite belonging, or words that are offensive. Then we wonder why no one gets it. Why they look as if we aren’t speaking English in the first place. They get lost in the translation of words, emotions and action.

Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, lists this for Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

What if our intention was to truly listen to one another, rather than to use that time to formulate the next thought, compile the next argument, load the verbal bullet? Could we work harder to really hear what is being said, even if it sounds condescending, ignorant, or confusing. Imagine how you would feel if someone took the time to listen and really hear what you had to say.

Our Savior is constantly asking us to overcompensate for one another’s deficiencies. We are told to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to shake the dust from our clothes and move on. The ability to look beyond the surface, even in our conversations, should be counted among those compensations. If we can seek to understand, we may find in our enemy a friend.


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