Giving up the word “depressed” for a week made me much more aware of how we use the word, not just in my own vocabulary, but in our common social discourse. Over the week I heard friends and colleagues talk about being “depressed.” I read an author who spoke of being visited by his familiar old “demon of depression.”
I noticed that when I use the word, there is usually a more accurate and more specific word that describes how I am feeling or what I am experiencing. When I talk about my feelings and experiences rather than an abstract diagnosis (“depressed”) I feel empowered and capable. Using the word “depressed” is more likely to lead to a sense of affliction, like the author who spoke of being visited by the “demon of depression.”
On the other hand, when I described the project of giving up this word to a wise spiritual counselor, he spoke of depression as actually depressing aspects of ourselves. We depress and slow down our reactions and feelings as a defense agains the intensity of life. All good food for reflection.
David, Seattle, WA
It was quite an experience to be so mindful of a single word from my everyday vocabulary. Only once during the week did I nearly respond to someone, “I’m tired.” It made me more conscious of how I present myself, and my energy level. It’s so easy to say, “I’m tired.” And sometimes that is true. But dieting from the word for a week (and even a bit more) has been insightful. I’m thinking about what word I should try to give up next. A very useful exercise. Thank you!
Eric, Boston, Massachusetts
I appreciate this opportunity to improve my language hygiene. Society loves to criticize women, so we criticize ourselves. Hearing what we tell ourselves- and each other- as an outsider would, helps.
I’d been saying “Boring” about everything – my exercise program, television shows, books, my work, my life in general. Some aspect of everything in my life elicited a “Borrring” response, silently and aloud.
Funny thing. The minute I decided to give up the word, I did. Not that I didn’t keep thinking it. I did. But each time it was in my head, I’d say “ I can’t say that. ” Then I’d think what do I really mean: What am I missing, or feeling, or wishing for? Sometimes I had an answer, sometimes not, but it wasn’t boring. It’s been a good discipline to understand how one word not only reflects thoughts but shapes them. Boring has disappeared from my vocabulary for now and I’m reflecting on some of the other words people have posted.
Susan, Pennsylvania, USA
I’ve spent a week trying not the use the word “jerk.” I’m generally a polite, open-minded person, and I take seriously the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. When I’m driving my car, however, and someone else tailgates me, cuts me off in traffic, or drives in a manner that irritates me, I’m quick to react with language I learned on the playground many years ago. Amazing how those name-calling reactions are so deeply embedded.
I’m a work in progress. I think I made it through the week without calling anyone a jerk. I found a couple of other words to use instead. When my children were little and riding in car seats in the back seat, I’d hear one of them call out the window, “jerk,” to someone driving nearby (that seems to be my word of choice when I’m being uncharitable to my neighbor). That would stop me for awhile, and I’m aware that I have much less anger and impatience than I did when I was driving in those days.
My older child and I had a deal at one point … If I spoke unkindly about another driver, I had to put a quarter in a jar … she kept track for me quite diligently. She had to make her own contribution for some behavior that I can’t even remember now. Eventually, we gave the money to a mission effort at our church.
My work needs to go deeper than giving up a word, I’m realizing, but I suppose it’s a place to start. I’m going to try to go another week, this time putting a reminder on my car’s visor. Then, perhaps I’ll take a deep breath and relax before reacting angrily.
From “Can’t” to “CAN”!”
Following my doctor’s advice to leave my career in management and focus on my health I found that I was using my health as an excuse to say, “I can’t” as an excuse to not do anything I didn’t want to do even though, I felt perfectly fine. I have missed many great opportunities and experiences because of this self-defeating habit. I realize that if I said “I can”, more my life would be more enriched and I would feel more empowered and less a victim. This simple exercise has been so transforming and I am so grateful!
It was as difficult as I expected! But it made me much more aware of how much I talk about myself. For example, when I went to get my hair cut, I realized how much of the conversation usually revolves around me. When I stopped talking about myself and let my stylist lead the conversation, I ended up getting to know much more about her. I found out more about her that day than any other time in the last six years! Giving up “I” completely is close to impossible, but reducing my use of it *is* possible and is something that I will continue to work on.
My word was STRESS, and I must admit it was very hard to give up. Being at a conference where I was away from the stresses that affect my life made giving up stress easier. However once I got back into the “real world”, STRESS was right back again, as if it never left. For me, trying and changing are two different things. I can always “try”, it is the “changing” that’s hard. In a supportive, small environment it is possible to have much greater success in changing things than when I don’t have outside influences. Once I lose that safety net, it becomes so much more difficult. But that’s when I have to remember to “Let go and let God”, and when I do fail, I can pick myself up and thank God for his presence and help. I am not alone in this and I can’t do it without God’s help.
It’s amazing how easily it is to give up the use of self-deprecating words when you identify them and think on them for a bit. I haven’t called myself an idiot once and, since I know I am not an idiot, I am left to ponder why I ever got in that habit. Identifying one word like this seems to be making me more aware of how I present myself.
Frances, Richmond, VA
To begin the week of fast, I started with the passage from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 6 where we are reminded not to worry about what we are to eat or drink or wear… look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, they do not sow or reap and yet the heavenly creator cares for them. I used this passage all week and it gave me a sense of peace. Also during a trip away at a conference, I found a small pewter cross filled with lilies and I have used this as a sacramental. Holding it reminds me in a very concrete way, that God loves me, cares for me and worrying will not add a single hour to my life, it will only rob me of the peace that is mine in Christ. I leave the cross on my bedside table and before I sleep, I ask God to help me hand over my worries. I think that this may be a life long endeavor. Thank you for offering the challenge to give up a word. It has been a thoughtful, and peace giving experience for me.