Red-Flag Words

One of the more frustrating experiences we can have is in attempting to engage in honest, meaningful discussion only to have our opponent stigmatize our efforts through the reshaping of words. They are familiar words, but they are distorted and redefined in order to negatively label opponents to their position. Lest we be unarmed for the great task at hand, let us consider some examples:

1) “Intolerant”: In our society, we find some calling disagreement itself “intolerant”. But how am I showing tolerance if I already agree with you? The truth is that disagreement is the foundation of true tolerance. I express true tolerance by disagreeing with a point of view yet respecting that person’s right to think otherwise. We might ask someone who labels us as such, “Why are you being so intolerant to my intolerance?”

2) “Equality”: Interestingly, few things in life are truly equal. Inequality does not imply discrimination in that someone is somehow being slighted if all things are not being made equal to their “liking”. Else, why is it not wrong that Bill Gates won’t distribute his wealth to all of us? Many companies provide paid maternity and paternity leave for mothers and fathers having a child. Is it unequal that since I don’t have children I don’t get the same benefit? Am I being discriminated against if I’m single but not allowed to file joint taxes? The examples are numerous but what many really want is “acceptance” under the guise of “equality” due to a misunderstanding of what equality truly means.

3) “Hate speech”: This phrase is often used against a person who opposes an “idea” by falsely accusing them of being in opposition to the “person” expressing the idea. But disapproving of a lifestyle or choice to protect the individual and society is much closer to love than hate. Mere disagreement does not rise to the level of hate.

4) “Judgmental”: The most biblically illiterate soul in the world knows “Judge not lest you be judged.” Yet the context is clear that Jesus is referring to hypocritical and self-righteous judgment (Matt 7:1-5). He does not forbid making a right judgment (John 7:24). That someone charges another with “judging” is in fact a judgment itself and therefore brings hypocrisy around full-circle. But sadly, this word “judgmental” too is used to diffuse honest discussion and sheds more heat than light.

5) “Freedom”: “What does it hurt you if I engage in ____ behavior?” It’s the suggestion that as long as the person’s behavior is not in direct contact with you than it is harmless. Let’s try these phrases: “What does it hurt you if I abuse my pet?” What does it hurt you if I abuse my wife?” True liberty and freedom always carries with it limits and responsibilities. The laws our forefathers created provided us freedom for the very reason that it restricted certain behaviors. Freedom should never be an excuse to do whatever happens to please us at the time.

6) “Love”: Relationships that merely feed the feelings of the parties involved through physical and emotional satisfaction while overlooking the true welfare of a person’s soul is not true love. If a child wants to drink a container of turpentine because it looks desirable, we stop him because our love for him values his life above his feelings. The greatest love there is (agape) is not based on feeling, but on the greater good for another person regardless of how they feel.