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Alex Dooley
COMM 494 Essay on Communication Ethics
Dr. Lynn Cooper
17 February 2015

Kind, Tenderhearted Forgiveness: A Redeemed, Ethical Brand Mantra

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
-Ephesians 4:32, ESV

Focus. Every communicator needs focus. Establishing focus in ones life aids a
person in setting goals, staying on task, and remaining true to their identity throughout the
course of their life. Can focus be generated at will? Is there a list of rules, a communication
Bible of sorts to follow for the sake of communicating well? Having a comprehensive list of
ethical ways to live as a communicator sounds really great; I would personally love to be able
to hold up a litmus test for ethics and appropriateness in my own communication. That being
said, long lists of rules can be cumbersome and unwieldy, often creating more of a burden
than a lift. The ultimate determinant of ethical communication is, to a believer, all that is
true through the person of Christ quite a long list, to say the least. This is why developing a
fully codified method for living as an ethical, Christlike communicator is both unhelpful and
unrealistic. Furthermore, it stands to reason that creating a concise personal mantra for
oneself is a better model for remaining consistent in ethical, helpful communication
throughout the course of ones life. Every mission statement, mantra, or personal credo
looks different depending on the person adopting it. In my own life, the main principles


outlined in Ephesians 4:32 kind, tenderhearted forgiveness serve as the primary ways
through which I plan to live as a communicator.
In 1999, the National Communication Association (NCA) adopted a formal Credo For
Ethical Communication after a multi-year period of research and review. The conference,
aimed at establishing ground rules for defining ethics and their relationship to
communication, developed and endorsed a full nine principles for ethical communication,
unanimously adopting them as the standard for ethical communication on November 6, 1999
(Andersen 142). The credo adopted by the NCA is comprehensive, passing without debate,
and contains an incredible amount of truth and insight into communication, much of it even
matching up with the tenets laid out in Ephesians 4:32: We promote communication
climates of caring and mutual understanding that respect the unique needs and
characteristics of individual communicators reads the fifth point in the NCA credo, echoing
the verse in question. While the NCA credo is solid, being based on many of the ethical
principles outlined in scripture and through the life of Jesus, it reads as somewhat
impersonal and organizational. It works, but for whom? To function handily as a personal
credo, the principles must be easily rememberable and portable, ready to be referenced at a
moments notice. In order to serve as a practical credo, the most important parts of what it
means to be an ethical communicator must be further boiled down.
Enter Nike and the Walt Disney Company. These are two huge, multinational
corporations with a vastly-reaching of goods, services, and products. Much like a
communicator must encompass the wide boundaries of what it means to be ethical, these
companies must be able to identify their purpose for existence in a relatable, concise
manner. This is where individuals can learn something from these corporations, taking the


same strategy used to identify and develop a corporate mantra and applying it on a personal
The mantra model used by Nike and Disney is simple. As explained by Kevin Lane
Keller in his article
Brand Mantras: Rationale, Criteria, and Examples
published in the Journal
of Marketing Management, mantras are brief, three to five word phrases that capture the
core essence of a brands values and identity. Brand mantras ensure that each individual
within the corporation can easily and fully understand how the company desires to be
perceived by others and what kind of messages it wants to send to its receivers: potential
customers (Keller 45). A good brand mantra is specific enough to give clear direction and
guidance into the way the company wants to portray itself, yet general enough to be
reinterpreted into a variety of situations. The best mantras incorporate three main elements:
an emotional modifier; a descriptive modifier; and a brand function (Keller 48). These
elements are respectively represented in Nikes mantra of authentic athletic performance
and Disneys mantra of fun family entertainment; each captures the most irrefutably
important parts of the brand on every level emotional, descriptive, and functional and
casts a vision for what every interaction within the company, both internally and with
customers, should look like.
I am not a brand, per se, but identifying and understanding the most important
aspects of being an ethical, effective communicator seems to be an important thing. Keeping
my humanity in mind, I believe the brand mantra model of identifying purpose to be
incredibly effective in helping me identify my purpose and set the tone for my interactions
with those around me. Constructing and portraying a consistent message for the sake of
both my interpersonal relationships with others and my representation of the gospel of Christ


can be effectively done by adopting the brand mantra model of purpose-identification.

Synthesizing theological, communication, and marketing/advertising principles, in this
particular case, actually works beautifully.
Taking a closer look at the text of Ephesians 4:32 reveals something fascinating: its
structure nearly perfectly follows the model for an effective brand mantra laid out by Keller.
, the brand function, highlights the principle focus of a communicator when the
communicator is being like Christ
as God in Christ forgave you
. The descriptive modifier,
, describes the function itself. This is not a begrudging, reluctant, or
half-hearted forgiveness, it is a tenderhearted one the kind of forgiveness that truly
absolves the wrongdoer any continuing burden.
, the emotional modifier, qualifies the
method in which the brand delivers this tenderhearted forgiveness, further clarifying the
nature of the brand and giving another key to unlocking effective communication for those
within the brand. The resulting mantra Kind, tenderhearted forgiveness ends up as a
true description of how I want to communicate with others and what I believe the core nature
of ethical communication to be.
Assuming I understand God as the source of all truth, and thus the source of all
ethics, Christianity itself works as a sort of brand in this context; this brand is the brand of
truth, and all those who bear its mark must faithfully represent its values in their interactions
with other people. Unpacking the three components of this verse kindness,
tenderheartedness, and forgiveness will help identify the brand values of Christianity;
interpreting communication as the voice and actions through which faith speaks and moves
creates a model in which the communicator me can always look to my own personal
mantra as an effective method of living as an ethical communicator.


Be kind to one another

The call to exhibit kindness and compassion to others has a very practical purpose
for anyone living in a tightly-knit community. Whenever each person places the well-being of
other people physical, spiritual, emotional, and otherwise above that of themselves, the
entire community benefits. It is far better to have everyone looking out for one another than
to exist in a dog-eat-dog world of individualism and self-centeredness. Words spoken to add
value to the lives of other people through their kindness and compassion have a boomerang
effect, showing back up in the life of the one who spoke them. Acting kindly in this way
creates a positive brand association with community-building, neighborliness, and focus on
other people
Without tenderheartedness, any amount of kindness or forgiveness is rendered
unbelievable and doubtful on the part of the receiver. If I am to live effectively and ethically as
a communicator, I must take care to present myself as somebody who understands and
empathizes with the perspective of another. Whether I am simply acting with a tender heart
in general or specifically exhibiting tenderheartedness in the action of forgiveness, this
ingredient in my personal mantra is the connector of kindness and forgiveness; neither
functions properly without it.
...forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Sometimes, whether by intent or accident, the words or actions of one person or
group can cause harm to other people. An important part of showing kindness and
tenderheartedness, particularly within the Christian community, is answering the call to
forgive the wrongdoings of other people. Holding the sins of a person against them for a


prolonged period of time squashes any room for growth and learning through a negative
situation. Accepting apologies when they are given and extending forgiveness when they are
not allows the victim of wrongdoing not only to move on from a thing that caused them pain,
but also to learn from the experience and process it beyond the initial framework of hurt and
anger. Consciously recalling past wrongs in conversation or thought redresses concerns that
may be better off left in the past.
Remembering Gods forgiveness, which stems from his love, gives me cause to
forgive and love others as an imitator of Christ. This love and forgiveness is done from an
attitude of tenderhearted kindness.
Kind, tenderhearted forgiveness
: a mantra that captures
the essence of what it means to be a good communicator for the sake of the gospel.
Developing a personal mantra that so effectively ties together my reason for
communicating and identifies the perception and feelings I want to evince through my
communication is exceedingly more helpful than creating even a short list of practical rules
for ethical communication. The power of a mantra is its ability to be reinterpreted into
multiple contexts the list of rules and best practices flows from these principles, not the
other way around. Joel Carpenter speaks of the need for Christian communicators to adapt
communication styles and principles to different cultures in his article
The Christian Scholar
in an Age of Global Christianity
; the gospel itself is reinterpreted into whatever context it
reaches, so our communication must do the same. Gods truth transcends culture, and
because the mantra
kind, tenderhearted forgiveness
flows from the complete source of truth,
it is also transcendent and will be reinterpreted into whatever culture or society it is carried.
It makes sense that the transcendent God, who, despite his transcendence and
perfection, introduced himself to humanity through the incarnation of the person of Jesus,


expects his children to follow this example of cultural and contextual relativism in their
communication. Every attempt at remaining attuned to various cultural and communicative
styles should be done for the sake of furthering the cause of the gospel Christ himself must
remain our focus in establishing goals for living as communicators. With the kind,
tenderhearted forgiveness of Christ as my own example, I am able to live this kind of life.
Keeping this redeemed, personal brand mantra in mind, I am able to focus on loving others
in the same way Christ loved me first.
Kind, tenderhearted forgiveness
describes both the
process and the product for communicating Gods truth, the heart of all ethics in
communication; this mantra acts as both the method of love and the result of loving well.
Since I have been redeemed by the power of Christ, my communication must also be
redeemed, and focusing my personal mantra on Christ is the best way to consistently show
his love to those around me.


Lane, K. K. (April 01, 1999). Brand Mantras: Rationale, Criteria and Examples.
of Marketing Management, 15,
Andersen, K. E. (2000). Developments in Communication Ethics: The Ethics
Commission, Code of Professional Responsibilities, Credo for Ethical Communication.
Journal Of The Association For Communication Administration
(1), 131-144.
Carpenter, Joel A. (2006). The Christian Scholar in an Age of Global Christianity in
Christianity and the soul of the university: Faith as a foundation for intellectual community
Henry, D. V., & Beaty, M. D. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic.