Language shapes our reality. You need look no farther than Genesis 1 to see the power of words. Since language has this power, it is important to regularly reflect on our language usage and observe what it is telling about who we are and are becoming.
A while ago, I noticed that I regularly used adjectives to describe others. I would inject a persons ethnicity, political affiliation, orientation, or race [among a few things] to add to who they are? Are those things, among many others, a part of our story and who we are? Absolutely. But they need not be part of our name. I was doing this without any malicious intent or in a derogatory way…at least in my mind.
But here is what I noticed about myself that prompted a change in my language. The sobering reality was that I did not do this as frequently, if at all, when referring to someone from a majority group. It was my default to think of someone else in terms of a majority group. But I had a felt need to add descriptors for those persons outside the majority. I became convicted that this language habit was adding to the divisions between us instead of taking down the walls.
It is a small change I realize. Not one for which I am trying to pat myself on the back but rather one that I want to share to encourage you to take up the regular practice of reflecting upon your language too. Do we have the humility to question if we are doing something to divide our society instead of unite it? If so, we are embracing the spirit necessary to continue the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about on the steps of the Capitol. Talk about powerful words that continue to shape our reality!
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. day let us remember, celebrate, and look forward to the day when we all live in harmony. For me this means the only descriptor needed beyond our name is child of God.