What's with words?
I had a revelation, or perhaps revelation isn’t quite the right word. The experience was more like a slow unraveling of the truth for me. The last month or so I’ve had many conversations around this idea of language and how language can offend, trigger, and ultimately turn on the mute button during profound conversations. Countless times I’ve probably internally muted another person when I was triggered by a word that sent me into a negative spiral, and I missed valuable content, or worse a moment of human connection.
Let me put this all into context, instead of vaguely talking around the issues. Here is my revelation:
J-Bombs trigger me like F-Bombs trigger you.
Swearing for me has never been a means of creative offense, injury, or assault to any other human. The intent behind swear words in my world and in my usage is to punctuate my passion, or my fury at the injustices I see in the world, to make a point with the appropriate amount of fire behind it. It is a way to say, you can no longer tell me how to behave, what is acceptable, who I am or what I am or am not. It is a reclaiming of my power as a voice in this noisy chaotic world.
Swearing is a way to say enough, enough with the censoring of thought, language, belief, frustration, and anger. It is a way to say, I have had enough of being quiet about my truth, what matters most to me, what I believe. Further, I refuse to stay quiet in an effort to keep you comfortable in your life. The problem is, we live in a culture now where we are either offending everyone or saying nothing.
We have become so concerned about being P.C. that we are limiting our conversations to people that can handle our ignorance, because they share it, but they aren’t opening our minds. If we swim in the same pools, we share similar beliefs and we share the same privileges, likely we cannot help one another grow in our understanding. I recently had a conversation with a wise woman who happens to be black, successful, and open. She allowed me the space to ask if she could help me understand this pushback from black women on many white women who were praising the work of Michelle Obama and crafting Oprah 2020 signs. I simply wanted to be someone who understood, I wanted a safe space to ask questions but I had no one in my immediate circle to help me understand. I think there are plenty of us who are open to having hard conversations. Many who want to learn more about how to advocate for our fellow human beings who are facing oppressions, but we are afraid to speak up. We are afraid to sound ignorant. We are too afraid of saying the wrong thing. So, we remain quiet, safe and uninformed.
There is so much evidence that the current state of the world is dividing us into smaller and smaller groups where we fit and are able to align on as many platforms as possible. The problem is we become inadvertently more close-minded and isolated as a result. We are not able or willing to step outside of what we know to open up difficult or uncomfortable conversations because we aren’t sure we won’t offend.
Or we purposely stay in confines of these comfortable spaces so we ourselves are not offended.
What I know for sure is we are all more alike than different, and when we stretch ourselves beyond what we know, when we are willing to ask hard questions, or listen to people who are different than us, we learn, we grow.
I think it is wise to consider that which offends you is offering you insight into the depths of your being. Perhaps it is those moments of recoil that allow you to see yourself more clearly. Perhaps you are being called on your bullshit, you are being called to grow, you are being called to open your mind to a greater understanding. Or perhaps that agitation you are feeling is a call to SPEAK. It is a call to break the silence. It is a call to step into the arena of your discomfort and invite others in with you. Your voice matters with or without profanity.
What I have realized is words that activate my mute button like Jesus, God and Lord are mirror reflections of the words I use, like fuck or shit. Both create a negative response, though neither of us meant to offend. The words hold deep power for the person who is expressing it.
Your experience with swearing may hold negativity from your past. Profanity may have been used on you to cause harm. Just as for many of us in the experience of organized religion had the words of holy texts used against us, causing deep scars.
But does that mean that we only use words that are so fluffy, soft or neutral that we never offend anyone? That is not a world I want to live in. And in order to protect my right to swear when I deem appropriate, I need to soften my reaction to your choice to invoke your power words. I know for sure your choice of words that declare your faith are not meant to trigger my negative emotions and my swear words are not meant to solicit fear.
In my life, the most harmful words spoken to me were entirely free of profanity and entirely full of ill-intent, hurt, pain and dismissal. This whole dialogue surfaced with fire for me after facing toxic judgment on social media by a fellow yoga teacher. After moving through the waves of shame, rage, and frustration I have come to this place of understanding.
There are lessons in all of this for all of us. What offends you is a mirror that is asking you to heal something unresolved, or speak something that has been previous left unspoken. You are being called to grow in one form or another. It is not my job to keep you comfortable in this journey we call life just as it is not your job to keep me comfortable.
Perhaps we can all start to see the parallels and trust that underneath the language that triggers, there is likely some truth, that underneath all of it, we are just asking to be heard. Our truth is asking to see the light of conversation; we are being called to a open our hearts and minds in the direction of growth.
Are you willing to rise to the occasion? Are you willing to speak your truth while take the risk of offending another? Are you willing to step into the conversation? Are you willing to soften, to open, to listen and to evolve?