By: Christiana Cha
Disclaimer: there will be a couple of quotes of potentially offensive language.
Recently I ran across some disrespectful hashtags on a Facebook photo, including: #allmine and #nobitch. The photo was about not having to share food with a girlfriend because the guy did not have one. I suppose it is common for a girlfriend to want a bite of her boyfriend’s food, but calling her a bitch for that seems a bit strong, no? I found it to be highly disrespectful and lacking in thought.
Sometimes, words are words and seem to be nothing else. But what about when we address each other or label each other in our minds?
Working as a host at a restaurant, I witness a variety of moods and manners of speech in people; some are kind, others incredibly rude. The result has been that I am more attentive both to the way others speak and the way I speak to others…because it matters. It is my job to be kind to everyone who walks through the door, and I take that seriously, but that does not mean that I enjoy when people are rude to me when I am trying to help seat them in a timely fashion.
I will be the first to admit that sometimes unkind words drift through my mind regarding particularly rude people at work, and that affects my heart toward those people. Do I manage to still be nice? Yes, but how I label a person in my mind completely changes who they become in my eyes. “That _____!” versus, “Maybe s/he had a bad day,” sets an entirely different expectation of who a person is or how that person will continue to act throughout the night. If I write someone off as a jerk, I give them no chance at redemption, and sometimes redemption happens! One such instance happened in the past month when a woman was outright hostile to me when I kindly told her there would be a wait for a table (clearly, as all the tables were full), but twenty minutes later she came and was very contrite and apologized for being rude! Had I been rude in return, I am certain she would not have come to apologize to me. But posturing myself toward her as someone who was frazzled rather than someone whose character was mean allowed me to still be kind to her and for her to remember that she, too, was kind.
This concept carries over into the rest of life as well. We live in a society wherein individuals feel increasingly entitled to having what they want, when they want it, even if it means trampling someone else, and I think part of that stems from the sort of language we use to address each other. People are calling each other – whether earnestly or in jest, it matters not – bitches, hoes, dicks, and other such names that certainly I would not and most likely you would not like to be called (if you want that, someone needs to sit you down and talk with you!). Men objectify women, women bemoan the entire male population, parents call their children “a pain in the butt” and expect to somehow still have a good attitude about their kids, and brothers and sisters call each other names.
Words are words, right? Wrong. Words matter. Calling your child a pain in the butt instead of calling her by name creates a vast difference in your heart posture toward that child and in that child’s concept of who s/he is and will become. It is harder to be unkind to James or Ashley than it is to be ugly to “that d-bag” or “that beezy”. We do not always know people’s names, but we can remind ourselves that they all have names. People say (and some research says) that the sound of our own names is one of the safest sounds people can hear, and a name signifies a real, live, breathing person with feelings. The second someone becomes an a-hole in our minds, s/he is for a moment not that living, breathing person with feelings. His/her identity in our minds becomes “a-hole.” And how you treat an a-hole is different from how you treat Bev or Scott.
I may not know your name, but I would like to label you kindly because how I treat you stems from that label, and should I speak that label out loud, it also affects your concept of yourself whether you would like to admit it or not. I would also like to invite you to join me in labeling others kindly. It may seem small, but it has the potential to greatly improve the way we treat each other.