Misuse of Language
The language that we use is very important, because it effects the way that we think. My Paw Paw often says, “If you say something about yourself often enough you’ll begin to believe it.” The way that we talk about something effects the way that we think of it just as much as the way that we think about something affects the way we talk.
Stores and retailers use this all the time to make sales. I know someone who used to work for a popular electronics retailer, that’s no out of business. He told me that they would have a “sale” around Christmas time every year, but that it wasn’t really a sale. They would raise all of the prices by 10 or 15% and then put everything on sale for the same amount. Just that sign saying “10% OFF!” was enough to get people to buy it, even though it wasn’t really 10% off. Another way stores sell products is to put special labels on them, like “Gluten Free,” “Diet,” and “Organic.” Sometimes these labels can be helpful, like if you’re allergic to gluten, but a sometimes they’re just silly, like when cereal is labeled as “Fat Free;” of course it’s fat free, it’s cereal.
Language can also be used to affect how we think about far more serious things, like abortion or euthanasia. Those who are against abortion call ourselves “pro-life,” because saying that you’re “anti-abortion” is a negative and feels bad, but being pro-life is something that just about everyone can agree with. On the other hand, those who are “pro-abortion” don’t like to use that term, because it doesn’t sound nice, but everyone wants to say that they’re “pro-choice,” because freedom and liberty are things that every American values.
Euthanasia is the same way. Euthanasia is the act of ending the life of someone suffering from a chronic or terminal disease, or helping them to end their own life. Those who are against it call it “euthanasia” or “physician assisted suicide,” but people who are in favor of legalized euthanasia call it “death with dignity” or “physician assisted dying.” Do you see how that changes how you think of it?
What we need to do is look past the language that we use to the reality behind it. Words have meanings, and ideas have consequences, and we need to take those meanings and consequences seriously, because they affect real lives. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you, but dig down deeper than the surface, seek the truth, and govern your life by it.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.