In my 20s I became aware of how people used words to indoctrinate. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a lot of discussion about how the dominant culture writes about history, to make them look like the “good” guys and the people they dominated as “bad.” Even the terms “good” and “bad” were called into question — good or bad based on which values? If you adhere to a specific religion, things are defined according to how current leaders interpret the texts. However, if you have decided all paths with compassion, tolerance, and respect for all life are valid, the guidelines become less definitive.
Those are big issues, but the idea carries into the small areas of everyday life. Someone once called my young son stubborn; I countered that stubborn is another way of saying determined, and determination is a trait that would take him far some day. Twenty-five years later, I am proved right. 🙂 But at that moment, it did make the person pause and reconsider her viewpoint. The trick is to take that determination and season it with attitudes that open the door to pragmatism and compromise.
“Compromise” — there is another word that falls in and out of favor, depending on your attitude (or more recently, your political viewpoint). There are people so rigid in their views that the idea of compromise suggests defeat. If you cobble together a compromise made of the weakest points of each argument, it will surely lead to defeat for all. But seek to create a win-win solution with strength; you may not get all you hoped for, but if it creates a space of peace and prosperity, you have the opening to talk with others about the changes you hope to make. If the ideas have merit, people will lean in that direction. And in the meantime, life will be better for more people.
“Tolerance” is another loaded word. I saw a bumper sticker: “Tolerance is not a virtue.” I felt badly for that individual. To see things so firmly as black or white, that he has cut off any possibility for reaching out to the very people he says he cares for. I remember the argument: Hate the sin, not the sinner. But again, you set up an atmosphere of judgment that precludes anyone even considering the worth of your values. Fear only makes people behave if they think someone is watching (and cares); actions born of love from your heart and tolerance have the gentle strength of water wearing down rock.
Recently I’ve been considering the words “lazy” and “relaxed.” There are so many preconceived notions around those words, most having to do with the family and culture we were raised in. I may write another whole entry about those words. 🙂 Meanwhile, I encourage you to look at both sides of the words you use. Is there judgment couched in a word or how you use it? Does being a good business-person mean only considering money, or also the social costs? “Virtue” is also a loaded word, because one person’s virtue (such as a woman having no contact with males outside her family) is another person’s repression. A “creative imagination” may mean lying or making up stories versus being open to all the wonder that is around us. I try to examine how I use words, but do not always succeed in seeing both sides before they come out of my mouth. I am open to learning. 🙂
PS Happy New Year!