Stephan N. Tchividjian National Christian Foundation President
Once in a while I tend to be petty. For example, I’ve been noticing a lot of grunts around me of late. Grunts are audible noises that one voluntarily makes… usually. Pigs grunt, but that’s not the type of grunt I am talking about. I’m noticing the human grunts. My daughter grunts when I ask her how her day was… I’m not sure how to interpret that; is it good or bad? I have also noticed the loud “come on” or “hmmmm” in a crowd… I think they call that a loud listener. I am not much of a grunter myself; however, in noticing these grunts, it’s caused me to stop, listen and perhaps see (and hear) if there is something I can learn from these unique expressions.
One of the most common grunts I’ve noticed is an athlete on the tennis court or in a gym. The tennis player, Michele Larcher de Brito was given a warning at the 2009 French Open for grunting. Not sure how that was conveyed to her and what the offense was, non the less, it happened. Athletes apparently need to grunt because it’s a way of releasing some of that self-generated “steam” …like a release valve or human volcano (I guess the earth grunts too). Perhaps that explains why someone will say, “wow, that person choked” when an athlete fails in an attempt; perhaps they should have grunted more.
The loud listener
Another grunt I’ve noticed is a bit more refined and socially acceptable, the loud listener kind. The grunt is heard in a gathering that is large but not too large to go unnoticed. Churches are prime places to experience this type of grunt, rock concerts not so much. I recently attended a conference with about 350 people in attendance and noticed a grunt community. The presenter would say something that apparently caught the attention of the grunter who then responded with a loud “hmmmmmm” followed by “come on or so so good!” I believe it was an affirmation of some sort, not a bad thing. I must say that if I were the speaker and I heard the grunt when I made a point, I would assume it’s a sign of agreement and be tempted to make more of the same points, as I waited for another affirming grunt… like a grunt addict. The grunt could cause me to get off course and begin to randomly look for more points that get a grunt. I do wonder if this so called “exchange” affects the audience, the message or the mood in the room? Some of my most memorable church experiences demonstrated a lively interaction between the preacher and the listeners, the loud “Hallelujah” for example. I will never know since I rarely get that when I speak, oh well.
I also sense that sometimes grunting occurs in the midst of pain. I’ve grunted if I got a bad stomach ache or stubbed my toe. These grunts are usually a noise that seems to say what the nerves are experiencing… like an interpreter or loudspeaker. Sometimes the grunt is not a sound but a few choice words that may even surprise you. I believe these grunts seem to help alleviate the pain a bit. A woman giving childbirth is a classic example and who can blame her? Sometimes my prayers are grunts; it’s when I don’t know what to say and I just grunt, and God understands. I like that! I would say there is something glorious about a grunt that reflects life, something compassionate about a grunt that comes from pain and something haunting about a grunt that is heard amongst the dying.
I find it hard to understand all the reasoning behind the grunter and frankly it’s really none of my business. A grunt is an expression, like clapping, or laughing. We all express ourselves differently. Some of us, in our silence can appear unengaged, pain free, disinterested or apathetic while others in their grunting are fully engaged, in a lot of pain, very interested and enthusiastic. However, perhaps my silence is my way of showing respect and interest… a way to focus while the loud grunt can appear to be an interruption or distraction, “hey notice me.” We never know do we?
My sensitivity and attention towards grunts is a bit odd. God uses odd things to get my attention. I guess by noticing grunts as of late I’ve noticed my own extraordinary ability to judge others mercilessly. I’m surprised by how quick I assume the motive, situation and/or character of another, simply from a grunt. It’s sort of ridiculous. I can be so easily bothered by someone else but not nearly as bothered by my own action/in action… and here lies a problem and now I too want to grunt, “argh.” Perhaps that grunt is God’s way of catching my attention. He wants me to see the effort, the pain, the point. The simple observation causes me to reflect on the difference between how I look at the world and the way God looks at the world. I deeply desire to see and hear what he sees and hears. When God speaks to me, do I hear it as an annoying grunt or a welcome interruption? Do I dismiss His voice or the noises of His creation? Remember, God expresses Himself all the time, and I am grateful for that. God “grunts” are always life-giving… allowing me to notice something he wants to show me. Come on…so, so good!
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more. Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/stephan-tchividjian/