I asked three millennials what “read between the lines” means:
(1) “Narrating the scenario?”
(2) “Understanding something better?”
(3) “Sorry, Ms., nothing comes to my head.”
When I requested #1 and #2 to explain their answers, they had run out of words. There was nothing to ask #3.
Author Shannon L. Adler wrote, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life-long quest of the wise.”
I am afraid to say this, but we are losing (or have lost) the art of reading between the lines.
With it, we have lost all understanding of other literary devices such as sarcasm, hyperbole, symbolism, etc.
We are in an in-you-face era where everything is taken at its face value. Cut-and-paste, sans critical thinking.
We are also in an era where cursing, lewd jokes, and rudeness are virtues, especially if uttered by officials in positions of power.
Our president, for instance, curses at whomever has caused his ire. He also likes cracking lewd/gender-biased jokes, and eschews tactful language in all his speeches (formal or informal occasions). When I complain, I get these admonitions from his fans:
“That’s trivia, look at his accomplishments.”
“Those words are nothing, look into his heart.”
“He is the only president who is real; real talk.”
Whatever happened to GMRC (Good Manners and Right Conduct) that we teach our children at home and in school?
Whatever happened to role modelling?
One of my advocacies is children’s literature. That’s why I care about what children learn from adults, especially from our leaders.
Or do I sound like I am still living in ancient times when “yesses” and “nos” were read between the lines?
But let’s go even farther back—thousands of years ago. Jesus talked in parables to teach people lessons. Listeners read between the lines.
So, okay, today—if we insist on saying it like it is, without the folly of in-your-face foul language, Apostle Paul had these words to the Ephesians, chapter 4:29 (ESV):
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Can we get more forthright than that?