Thursday, February 02, 2006

Violent Speech

During a team meeting today, my boss used several phrases which disturbed me, causing our resident PhD psychologist and I to exchange a number of puzzled looks. In describing our new approach and strategy to patient care and data management, my boss used the terms "scatter-shot", "shot-gun" and then "ammunition" to illuminate his point as to how we would approach several problems. Why such unnecessarily belligerent verbiage, especially vis-a-vis a discussion of compassionate and thorough healthcare?

In these troubled times of war and escalating violence at home and abroad, speech which uses violent images to drive home salient points raises red flags for me in many ways. While not wanting to rely on the unwritten rules of political correctness to dictate how people speak, this type of speech is disturbing for a variety of reasons. Were my colleague and I the only ones to react negatively to these turns of phrase? Was everyone else unphased by such usage? Are most people desensitized to such language? Is it really that ubiquitious? Why did I not feel comfortable to speak up and request a new vocabulary to describe our work?

For many years, Mary has actively worked to change the phrase "kill two birds with one stone" to "free two birds from one cage". It communicates the same idea but substitutes more open and liberating language, eliminating needless images of killing from everyday speech. How easy to remedy!

This culture is brimming with violence which permeates every aspect of our lives. Violence-free speech is one way that I choose to actively decrease the negativity which is circulated in the world. Books by two of my favorite authors and spiritual leaders---His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh---sit at my bedside, both books focusing acutely on decreasing negativity, increasing love, and expanding compassion. If there is no other task worth doing in the world,
I know that this work---the spiritual work of loving---precludes all other tasks before me in this life.

The next time I am confronted by unnecessarily violent speech, I commit to speaking up, speaking out, and gently redirecting that negativity out of a desire to further the cause of gentle compassion in the world. After all, as the saying goes, silence is complicity.
Post a Comment