EVERYONE, I suppose, wants to be eloquent, that is, forceful and persuasive in his conversations, dialogues, speeches. Especially to those engaged in public speaking and publicity work, eloquence is the apple of their eye, their jewel of the crown.
Thus, politicians, media men, advertisers and all kinds of public communicators do all to sharpen their skills in that department. They check the quality of their voice, its pitch, tone and volume. All of these should be appealing to the public. The voice should be neither too strident nor too dragging. Better if it is clear, smooth and warm.
Then they employ all sorts of devices, tricks and gimmicks to enhance their expressiveness. Thus, they are fans of similes and metaphors, anecdotes, jokes, the popular expressions and slogans, buzz words and memes of the moment, and other literary sparklers. They are constantly minting new words and idiomatic expressions.
Of course, they also check their appearance and image. They are willing to go through complicated make-ups and make-overs just to achieve their desired persona or their preferred avatar.
Some people are not even averse to using underhanded means, like bombast, spins and hype, exaggerations and hyperboles to prop up their eloquence. This is not to mention many other factors, both licit and illicit, that also go into their pursuit of eloquence.
There can be pressures from outside, for example, from different sources—ideological, financial, commercial, political, etc., that are systematically pushing their partisan views, biases and prejudices.
We need to be aware of these forces that are at play in our public exchanges and know how to treat them properly. Of course, they are not altogether bad. They will always have some good, truth and beauty, otherwise they will not prosper. But they need to be examined with a fine-toothed comb to see what is fair and unfair, safe and dangerous in them.
We need to understand that eloquence is first of all a matter of having a vital union with God, the source of all that is true, good and beautiful. Without this, all claims of eloquence would be false and deceptive.
Thus, eloquence requires a great effort to be with God always, making him the beginning and end of our discourses, the motive and objective. This requirement is not at all inhuman and unnatural, but rather what is fundamentally proper to us, given our nature and dignity as persons and children of God. It may be hard, but it is practicable.
Since eloquence is a question of being persuasive, we have to understand that the first person we have to persuade is our own selves. We need to be persuaded that we need God first of all. Only then can we feel confident that we can persuade others about God and about anything else in life.
Eloquence should not just be a play of persuasion and expressiveness about worldly and temporal concerns, no matter how valid they are. Its first objective is the acceptance of God as our Creator, Father and Provider for everything. The ultimate objective of eloquence is to relate everything to God. This is the big challenge for us who seek eloquence.
So we have to be most wary of the glib talkers who only speak about politics or business or some worldly affair we have. Without a clear grounding on God, their words can only be shallow and biased, if not insincere and deceitful, even if they are heavily supported by facts and data and seasoned with all literary and rhetorical devices.
Real eloquence will always lead people to God, giving them true wisdom. It is not meant to lead people to mere ideologies or to some interest groups exclusively. It will always lead people to God, and because of that, it will also lead people to all others, in spite of one’s particular position that can be different or even in conflict with that of the others.
Real eloquence avoids contention and envying. It is not driven by bitter zeal. It does not arouse sensual or merely worldly reactions to issues. We have to be wary of speakers who are wont to stir intrigues and provoke controversies, restricting our discourses at the purely mundane level.
Real eloquence can use all the devices and gimmicks that are licit and moral, but as St. James said, it would embody a heavenly wisdom expressed in meekness and goodness.
That wisdom-infused eloquence would be “chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good works, without judging, without dissimulation.” (3,16)