There is no more important eco-system to our well being than the language environment in which we are immersed. We pay as little attention to it as we do to the air. Life inundates us with opportunities for our attention but, contrary to the myth of multi-tasking, we focus on just one thing at a time. With practice this focus can be sustained until we achieve a state of being called “Flow” – a wonderful space where all sense of time and otherness is abandoned and we joyfully meld purpose, process, feeling and imagination inseparable into creativity.
Flow is available to each of us but typically we fail to rise above the competing opportunities for our attention. We bumble along giving our attention to urgent but unimportant items, even inexplicably, to unimportant and unurgent ones. (As I write, KU football is undefeated and the Royals are in first place!) We pay a price for this bumbling. Life becomes a mile wide and an inch deep; the end of one day is barely distinguishable from the beginning of the next - a series of details that appear in rapid succession refining our expertise in whack-a-mole, while signifying not much. The great cost to this manner of existing is being victimized by our language environment.
In our haste we become victims in two ways, at least. We let labels limit our experience. We let judgments limit who we become. Do you know the label, “rain”? Then, when I tell you that the other day I walked and got caught in the rain, we likely have a shared experience. Surely, you have been on a walk when an unexpected rain occurred prior to reaching your destination? Then, you and I appear to have something in common. In taking for granted the labels that surround us we use this shared experience as a scaffold to greater understanding as more labels are shared and we have layers upon layers of labels that take us to a, as in one, grand conclusion! Before we go on a perception check, please: How did the rain strike you on our shared experience? Was it an Oregon floating droplet experience? Was it a Kansas driven beads of water experience? Or, like mine, was it a South Carolina gentle stream experience? Rain is a label inadequate to the task of deep understanding. Let alone a building block to a grand conclusion. Listen. I must listen actively to be sure the words are what they seem.
Even more damaging are the judgments wrapped in words that assault us unmercifully. Brene’ Brown, a University of Houston Social Work Professor, has done extensive research that identifies sources of shame for females and males in our culture. Our inattention to the shame based language interferes with our becoming the authentic beings we were created to become. Instead of building shame resilience we foster shame’s growth by keeping silent, numbing our feelings and staying small and inconspicuous. In short, a female in America is to be quiet, pretty and do it all without breaking a sweat; a male is to earn, be above complaining and never, ever show weakness. These judgments do not fit with the human being Jesus exemplified. But without care-full practice of courage, compassion and connection, each of us is victimized by our language environment.
Great creator, forgive my careless listening. Forgive my inattentiveness to practicing courage, compassion, and connection. In spite of the language surrounding me, I will become the authentic being of your intention flowing through creative resistance.