Monday, February 23, 2009

Individual Beliefs vs. Communal Standards

I was raised in rural farm country. Words that are highly offensive to some people no matter the context or usage are words I grew up hearing all the time. (It took my father years to call it “manure” - and it caused my mother great embarrassment and consternation until he did. It wasn’t conscious; it simply was habitual.) My parents also taught me that I should think about what I wanted to say and use whatever words best fit the meaning I wanted to convey - that it is perfectly appropriate to use what others consider to be “swear words” if they aren’t used as expletives, but rather in their proper context and dictionary meaning.

Due to my upbringing, I have no problem whatsoever using words in context that others find offensive just because of the way that society has turned them into prohibited words - especially since our modern concept of "swear words" and "curse words" is not scripturally based. When I am with others who feel the same way, I fall back on that upbringing; when I am in Church or any other situation where I am associating with people whose sensibilities are different than mine, I try to understand and respect that difference and subvert my natural speech to the level of least offense. If the topic comes up and someone is interested in why I am so comfortable saying words they wouldn’t dream of using, I try to explain my perspective. If they don’t express interest or can’t accept it, I back off and acquiesce to the communal language standard. It’s a simple matter of courtesy.

Thus far in my life, I have found relatively few practical issues where I truly have had to dig in my heels, raise my fists and aggressively fight to reject such communal standards. If I have to abase myself slightly in order to maintain peace and understanding and unity, so be it. I believe this basic outlook touches MUCH more than language, and I believe it is fundamental to true unity.


Stephen said...

Nicely said, it is courtesy.

SilverRain said...

Yeah . . . any dog breeder understands exactly what you're talking about.

But I agree. It is courteous to accede to the sensibilities of others, within reasonable limits.

Anonymous said...

This is pure Miss Manners -- suiting behavior and speech to the occasion, and above all making others comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Thought it was only me (and my DH) with the anglo saxon vocabulary.I do make the same accommodations,but it takes effort,and recently found myself with a non member friend expressing myself more characteristically.I did think afterwards that I had hardly behaved in a manner befitting my membership-not really your yea yea and your nay nay.It's so hard to get a grip,but on the plus side my children do better than I do.Some progress at least in a generation.I think on the whole I do see that language as a form of aggression,or at least it has become such,so i think I will try to avoid it.

KrizteeTrain said...

I agree with what has already been said. Not mych to add, except to emphasize from my own experience that it is often better for my relationships with others to mediate my thoughts and words a bit than to fully express myself, come what may.

I have a close non-member friend who fully expresses himself to others in a very genuine (if not unsophisticated) way, and he is often shunned by his peers for it.

Great guy; poorly judged.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's a sign of maturity when we comply a little just to make others more comfortable-it costs me little and is probably a statement that i am comfortable about where I am.I do find it difficult to comply with communal hatreds though-all the isms.I feel that I am being put in a position of collusion, and I need to work on how I can deal with these situations with a little more grace.I guess it's all about appealing to people's better nature,and most of us most of the time can step up to that when we are offered it.I'm really just beginning to explore this ,rather than blustering myself further into the mud.I'd really love to be a greater force for unity,and love the fact that this is one of the subtexts here.I don't know where else to learn about this,other than asking the spirit to help me.Disunity is such an easy option,and finding common hatreds such an easy route to bonding.

Papa D said...

I think that's the first time I've been compared to Miss Manners. Thanks, I think. (However, I'm not sharing that comparison with my kids!)

Anonymous, I do want to thank you for drawing the distinction between what I'm saying in this post and "unity of hatred". The following is really profound:

"Disunity is such an easy option,and finding common hatreds such an easy route to bonding."

So true, and SO sad.