Importance of Context

Driving in the car the other day, I heard a news anchor say that it was a good thing that 3,500 people were killed in the Philippians.

Actually what he said was that it was a good thing that “only” 3,500 people were killed in the Philippians compared to an earlier report of over 10,000 diseased.

The small four letter word “only” made a huge difference in the overall message the news anchor was making.

Thinking about that made me reflect on the importance of context.

Context is defined as “the part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.”

3,500 people dying is never good. But compared to 10,000 people dying is can be seen as a good thing.

Often you hear celebrities or professional athletes say their comment was taken out of context.

Without context points are lost, confused and twisted.

Context is very important in the business world as well. To a financial consultant the abbreviation “PO” probably means “Purchase Order.” For someone in law enforcement, “PO” might mean “Police Officer.”

To kill the PO means something very different to each of those two professions.

How does context affect our everyday lives?

Should we consider the context when something good happens to us? What about when something bad happens?

If someone cuts you off in traffic, could the context be that maybe they are rushing to the hospital?

Or maybe not.

If someone is rude to you at the grocery store, maybe they just got fired from their job and are not sure how they are going to pay for their meals.

Or maybe not.

If someone doesn’t return your text immediately it doesn’t mean they dislike you, they might actually be busy and away from their phone.

Or maybe not.

Context is a difficult thing when it comes to knowing what is going on with the people around us.

But just because it is difficult, doesn’t mean we should ignore it.

Before we react to everything little thing, we need to step back and try to think of the whole picture.