Words have meaning and power. The language we use shapes how we see and interact with the world. Most people are unintentional about the words they choose. They simply just speak into existence whatever comes into their mind.
People with a tolerant personality tend to use more inclusive and humanizing language while those who see the world in adversarial terms speak in more exclusive and dehumanizing language.
The video above from Mayim Bialik put this theory, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in very simple terms. When we call women ‘girls’, we’re intentionally or unintentionally devaluing women and disempowering them. As she says, we wouldn’t call professional men ‘boys’, so why do we call professional women ‘girls’?
Men, The Language We Use, And Respect
Men are taught from a very young age that respect is linked to violence. We teach our sons to ‘man up’, ‘toughen up’, or ‘grow some balls’. Phrases like ‘I’d hit that’, ‘I’d tear that shit up’, or ‘I’d smack that ass’ are common. We hear it all the time in movies, music, on television, and in our daily lives.
Our words not only shape how we view the world around us but can also create a worldview for others around us. As men we need to choose our words wisely because you never know who is listening.
21st Century Men
If we’re going to be 21st century men, then we MUST be aware of the language we use. We must pay attention to our word choices in all situations, personal and professional. There is nothing inherently wrong with using words that denote power. The problem is when power and domination become our default setting. We begin to see others as ‘less’ than us, less powerful, less valuable, less worthy. Our language choice also impacts those we are charged to lead, whether it’s coworkers or our children.
Scripture says that the tongue has the power of life and death, Jesus said it is not what goes into the mouth but what comes out that defiles a man, and that out of an abundance of the heart the mouth does speak.
Be intentional about the words you choose.
Speak life into those around you and you’ll see them grow beyond their limits.