There is an expression somewhere about making sure our brain is in gear before we engage our mouth, or as my mother used to tell me: Think before you speak. In this day of modern technology when our words are in the public sphere almost as quickly as we type them, such an idea of thinking first becomes even more important. Yet so often the words are out there not only immediately, but often permanently. Something we said years ago can be brought easily to the fore. Now, I am not justifying the use of previous statements as final thoughts because we are all allowed to change our minds. But given the opportunity, it is my guess that many of us would have been better off if we had only thought about it first.
Yet, today, words and expressions that were considered once acceptable have become inappropriate and vice versa, some words once considered too vulgar to speak have become just another part of the vernacular. The fact that we can now use just letters or even emojicons to express thoughts and feelings can also become inappropriate if not downright dangerous. I mentioned in another article about asking about changing dates on something and the reply was simply “np”. I read the comment to mean “nope” (having dropped the vowels) whereas the sender meant “no problem”. I had read the response completely the opposite of its intention.
Since this particular article is due to be printed in November and December, I want to make reference to the upcoming Christian season of Christmas. I do not have any difficulty when someone offers a greeting about the season. Yet many people and places of government in particular as well as television are quite particular about not excluding non-Christians and so some will go to great lengths to not use exclusively Christian greetings. Some folks don’t like to be told what they can and cannot say and get quite upset with this change. On the other hand, in some instances, I have found that some folks use the term “Merry Christmas” or “Season’s Greetings” without giving much thought to their words at all. Which is, as far as I am concerned, maybe even more problematic?
I began to wonder about greetings or phrases that become so rote for us that we utter them without thinking. Though much has been written about not using “Christian” specific terms of greeting such as “Merry Christmas” in that it may be considered inappropriate if speaking to a non-Christian, sometimes the words are out of our mouths before we think. What seems to be a larger problem than uttering the words is what can happen next. Instead of saying we are sorry, we might try to defend our right to use such terms. And even though, it may be our right, we must ask ourselves whether or not we are truly defending a right or making an excuse for our not thinking before we speak.
Whether we like it or not, Christianity is not the l state religion of Canada – not that any religion should be, but we must be respectful of other faiths and those who profess no particular faith. However, we must not “throw out the baby with the bath water”. My faith teaches me to be respectful and a large part of that respect means thinking before I speak. What do my words mean? Do I want to say something inappropriate?
There is no doubt that words are powerful and the use of words can lead to acting on those words or making an attempt to at least giving ourselves justification for saying that which we said. Some things that I have learned most out of thinking and speaking are: words are impossible to take back; words don’t always get heard the way they were spoken (even less so when written); words are easily taken out of context; and we might claim that “sticks and stones” may hurt, words can hurt even longer.