Our language is telling. It creates fundamental associations that underlie what assumptions we make and how we will tend to act/react. I’m writing today about non-violence, but grass is more commonly used in another context today. When you read the title of this column, did you think about marijuana? Maybe you associated the title with current politics?
Poets and songwriters use words to great effect. However, we are affected by our internal conversation and daily conversations with others the most strongly. How much thought have you given to the words you use; to their associations with violence, dominance, and the way they affect the people closest to you?
We can take some time to first examine the way we speak and the words we choose. Once we find an unwanted tendency we can then make a conscious effort to change the way we use that word. Let’s use humor as an example. I used to be a very sarcastic person. I enjoyed the burn; the sharp wordplay that put a good dig into my friends. Then it was pointed out to me that sarcasm is a very angry form of humor that belittles someone else by pointing out their faults. I noticed the feeling of power it gave me to feel better than someone, to be the witty master of words. I loved the laughter as everyone applauded my efforts and poked fun at my victim. It was great until I really paid attention to the way that my humor impacted my way of thinking and those around me. I finally made a choice that it wasn’t worth putting people down to bring myself up. It wasn’t funny anymore.
The solution is a gentle refocusing of our attention. It follows an old adage: instead of pulling the weeds, just grow more grass. Eventually the weeds will get choked out because the grass is so strong and healthy. The application of this principle can be used universally. It took a couple years for me to get rid of sarcasm, but the sharp come backs have slowly stopped jumping up in my mind. Now my impulse to cut, burn and dig my friends isn’t my first or even second reaction.
Does violence really have any place in our hearts and minds? We have been highly desensitized to the common use of violent language through media and culture. It is only because we haven’t taken a deep look at it that we allow it in our lives. Instead of focusing on our adversaries, perhaps we should focus on our friends? Instead of creating division and stress, we can bring about connections and friendships that nurture us. In terms of humor, now I find ways to gently poke fun of situations instead of digging into a person. There are many ways to still have fun.
Mother Theresa was asked if she hated anyone. She responded with another version of our adage which I have paraphrased here. “If I take the time to hate, that is time I cannot spend loving and caring for someone. It’s not worth it to hate.” In the end, it is your life and your experience. How you spend it and how you interact with the people around you is your choice alone.