I am thrilled to be giving my friend Nita Holiday the opportunity to share some of her words today. Nita Holiday is a wife, mom, booknerd and Minnesotan. She is finishing her second novel and hopes to see her work as a tattered paperback on an airport bench one day. She likes people, so come find her on Facebook or Twitter, or check out her blog.
Language is important
The words we use have all kinds of motives behind them, but all language is used to convey messages, and some of those messages are about identity.
Growing up, my family was selective about language. There was a list of words our family didn’t say:
- “Shut up”
- Curse words
- Taking the Lord’s name in vain (bad enough to merit its own category aside from cursing)
- Crass talk or potty humor
Our parents even made a point of banning the word “fart”, substituting instead “fanny burp” which is 100 times worse if you ask me. I don’t know if blind adherence to principle took over, or if one of us kids said “fart” and in a panic they tried for a substitute and then were stuck with it, but I’d say this was a miss. A wide, whiffing miss.
When I was newly independent and feeling confident, during a visit home I made a point of telling my mom about something that “pissed me off.” I knew full well this was one the list of words that were frowned upon. There was something liberating about asserting myself this way. I pushed her buttons and provided evidence that I was making my own decisions, about my life and about my language.
Recently my nine year old, whom we’ll call Rex, has been getting sassy. He’s tossed back smart aleck comments and questioned the reasons we are in authority and he’s not. (That sounds more formal than it really is. Usually it’s “Why are you guys the boss?” and dreams of the day when he’s in charge.)
While this is irritating and requires active parenting so Rex doesn’t turn into a disrespectful sassafras, I must admit I’m secretly happy about it.
The short version is that Rex is a very compliant first-born, people-pleaser kid. He is flexible and wants to make things work for everybody. There is an earnestness in him that makes my heart ache. So when he digs in his heels and takes a stand, even while it irritates and inconveniences me, he is taking himself seriously, valuing his needs, sticking up for himself.
Words help us do that, don’t they?
They help us take ourselves seriously.
By proclaiming something with words, we can take hold of a new identity
The Bible talks about our brain activity, saying it’s best to think on things that are pure, true, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
Thinking is no more than speaking words in our heads
Rex and I have talked at length about focusing his mental energy on positive things, because that which you feed, grows.
Rex’s words help him become separate from us, and isn’t that the underlying goal of parenting in the first place? Nobody wants to bottle feed a fully-capable adult. That wouldn’t be healthy. When Rex talks back to me or my husband, he is experimenting with his own personhood, pushing to see where we end and he begins.
If the pendulum needs to swing over to Rex being lippy for a while in order for him to become a confident, assertive, independent person, that’s okay with me. I’m willing to see the good in it and wait for that pendulum to swing back to the middle. I just hope it doesn’t take too long.
Has anyone used words to affirm something in you? Have you used words to affirm something in yourself? How can you use words to assert yourself this week?
Seriously now, go over to Nita’s blog.