Words Shape Mind

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Yesterday, I shared a couple images on Instagram of some food I made with a caption about how I saved money by making my own curry instead of going to a restaurant. It was a pretty bland post that I mostly shared to get a little serotonin boost from the likes and to signal the things I’m interested in (vegan food, exercise, home cooking, etc). In response to the post someone made a comment that kind of irked me though. I’m paraphrasing because the comment was deleted, but the person said, “People who eat at restaurants are pussies”.

Yep. That actually really bothered me and I responded with, “I would appreciate it if you didn’t use that word on my posts.” He quickly deleted the post but I wish I would have handled the situation differently. Instead of asking for self-censorship (which I think is valid in some circumstances on a private forum like Facebook) I should have explained why his comment bothered me and turn into a learning experience.

I can’t turn back the clock, but I can use my blog to explain why I don’t like his comment. It really comes down to two primary issues, the first being the word “pussies”. Using a body part that is primarily attributed to a group of people who have been systematically held down in society by men with something negative is problematic. The statement this commenter seems to be making is that eating at restaurants is a sign of weakness and a synonym for weakness is the vagina. Throughout our culture, many derogatory words are associated with females and this is a subtle way to dehumanize women and justify subjugating them.

The second issue I had with the statement is that there is a value judgment to be made about someone for an action that harms nobody (and is, in fact, beneficial to many people). People eat at restaurants for many reasons but I can’t think of one that implies a moral failing. And I’m sure my many friends who currently, or have in the past, work in the restaurant industry would be financially devastated if we started viewing those who patronize restaurants as morally weak.

The words we use matter. Not only because others will make decisions about us and our character based on our words, but because our mind is shaped by language. Our perception of the world is influenced by the words we use, both vocally and in our thoughts. If we view people as “pussies”, “retards”, or “faggots” for doing something differently than us then we are building neuro-pathways that connect people with moral failings. We will start to see women, the handicapped, and the LGBT community as something inhuman, unworthy of respect, or filled with moral weakness simply because of their genetics and not because of their actions.

I think we each have a responsibility to ourselves and to others to closely watch our words and to improve our thoughts. This wisdom has been passed down from before the time of Christ and seems to be universal. We should watch our tongues and be aware of our thoughts, and work hard to improve both and better the worlds. I have failed at this many times in my life, and I am sure I will continue to fail, but simply being aware of my words and the subconscious effect they may have on my mind has been a valuable exercise. And I hope that others will try to be aware as well.