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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Language: All the "small" things

One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is Matt 5:37, "But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

The point that I'm leading into with this, as you might expect, is the subject of communication and our choice of words.  Some might think of me as too picky in my approach to this, especially considering my own glaring weakness in this area for those who know me.  No, this isn't an anti-swearing article, although that ought to never be a part of our conversation (or thought process for that matter) with anyone in any way.  This is about about using words and expressions that feel very common and okay even for those with relatively high moral standards but are still not conducive to the spirit of what Christ taught about the subject.

The reason I start out with that verse about in Matthew is because, in context, the Savior is teaching us to "not swear at all", but to keep our communication stay simple and let plain speech be a powerful enough force to get our ideas and feelings across without unnecessary "additives", if you will.

A good example of things is illustrated in Dead Poets Society when Keating discourages, for example, his students from saying things like "very sad" and replacing it with "morose".  There are many other examples of that kind of idea, but the principle behind it is that swearing and even using words like "freaking" and "crap" aren't even necessary.  Yes I have to work on those two myself a lot as well and I can already hear some people saying to themselves "seriously? 'freaking' and 'crap' aren't even really 'bad' words."  While they won't keep you out of the temple to be sure, someone who really wants to express something with that much adamancy can find another word to use.  With those kinds of expressions you may as well say "that guy was very very very very rude."  Not only does that just sound kind of superfluous, it doesn't do any good for the speaker or the listener.  I can guarantee you there are plenty of ways out there that would get the point across even more forcefully than "freakin" or "crap" and still be more conducive of the Holy Ghost.

"Sexy" and "Hot" are two others that drive me nuts!  According to the dictionary, sexy means "Arousing or tending to arouse sexual desire or interest."  Those who are familiar with the Lord's law of chastity as taught in the LDS church will hopefully see the problem with this when considering that phrases like "he/she is sexy" objectify people.  Sex is the single most sacred act we can do in this life, which is why God put safeguards of total abstinence in all forms before marriage and complete fidelity during marriage.  Those who participate in it become joint creators with the Almighty God, so to just toss that term around like it's no big deal is, to me, wildly disrespectful of such an incredible gift from God.  I have half a mind to re-title this entry "my wife is not sexy or hot" and she would have no problem with that.  She is jaw-droppingly beautiful to me in all ways imaginable, but I know for a fact that she hates those words too and it would repulse her if I ever used those words to describe anyone, especially her.  Even in the health and fitness area, it's just not necessary.  There is always a better way to say it that gets the same point across.  By the way, this also applies to using names of private parts of the body casually, in jokes, or replacing them with slang terms.

This also goes for posting immodest pictures of ourselves for the sake of "health and fitness".  I guarantee you God would never condone any of His daughters putting up pictures of themselves like that.  There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

Name calling, no matter the reason, is also never okay, but I'm not going to say more about that because of how obvious it should be.

At this point, I do apologize if this seems like a nit-picky gripe fest.  I don't intend it to be that.  Fortunately, my plan in writing this was to point out alternatives that we can use that not only communicate ideas just clearly, but more effectively as well.  The following are examples that are meant to not only make the speaker sound more mature, but do so without compromising the desired message and that effect of it.

Ladies, instead of someone calling you sexy, would you not feel more respected, loved and classy if your dream guy said to you "you are hypnotically beautiful" or "you are the most stunningly angelic girl I've ever seen"?  Does that get your heart beating a little faster or make you crave that kind of compliment?  Kind of makes the terms "sexy" and "hot" seem lazy, shallow or even repulsive doesn't it?

Guys, instead of your best friend saying something like "dude, you just kicked the crap out of the other team", wouldn't you feel more accomplished and manly if they said "Now that's what I call total domination!" or "That's how a man's game is won!"  After all, a real manly man can be an example of pure talent without openly defacing the opposing team.

I want to look at this from one more angle before I wrap things up.

One of my most favorite memes is the one I saw from Fight The New Drug which says "We don't see things as they are.  We see them as we are."  This point, I believe, also carries over to our choice of words and communication.  If you see the need to use swearing, including but not limited to those that start with F, S, B, D and A, just for starters; if you see a need to stoop to name-calling, no matter how much you dislike someone or something; if you use consistently use euphemisms just because it's a "better alternative to swearing"; that reveals far more about your ability to communicate effectively than it does about the subject matter at hand.

I will be one of the first to admit that I really need to work on some aspects of this issue myself, especially euphemisms, but when I see the insulting, bashing kinds of conversation that plaster the internet today and personal and sacred topics like sex just thrown around like their a dish rag, it tells me we have a big problem that needs more concern than we are giving it.

This one is titled "Language: All the 'small' things" because this is something to which most of the world would say something like, "Oh, come on, you're making a mountain out of a mole-hill here.  Times have changed and so has communication so stop being so thin-skinned about it."  But the reason I put the words "small" in quotes is because those things that seem small to us now are going to become a much bigger deal as the gap continues to widen between true disciples of Christ and everyone else.  His plan for us, if we let Him, is to refine and perfect us to the point where everything about us will be complete, pure, simple and glorious beyond description, including our language.  Why not get started on that now?  Simple and dignified language are the mark of a great soul.

The Savior taught that things we say and do corrupt us more than things we take in (disclaimer; this does not mean He is giving permission for us to consume things that are wrong).  Mentally allowing/condoning lies, insults and inappropriate language is bad enough, but propagating such things by our own words and actions is straight up destructive.

People will think much more of you if you can keep your language consistent with things the Savior would say.  No one has been more quoted, celebrated, revered or loved than He.

You want to be more respected?  Model your language after the Savior's.