What We Say Matters

What we say matters. I’ve always believed that and I think that recent events have very clearly demonstrated it. It’s easy to be careless and to say the first thing that comes to mind. Speaking with the listener in mind isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. Empathetic speech is a hard hard practice. It’s what writers spend their lives doing, looking for the right words, the ones that can really get at the heart of things, the ones that are honest and full of true emotions.

In the news recently we’ve seen the rise of hateful rhetoric side-by-side with hateful actions. I think the link is very clear. Part of the problem is that the term ‘Politically Correct’ is being misused to the point that it’s meaning is changing just like “literally” now means both literally and figuratively. Politically correct is rhetoric that is crafted and approved for political gain. Trump and others say that they don’t care about being politically correct and proceed to spew hateful rhetoric. They are using the term politically correct as it’s meaning and it’s opposite. Their rhetoric is hateful and apathetic and very much crafted for political gain. It’s both careless and careful. We should be praising empathetic speech over so called ‘genuine speech’. I want my leaders and political figures to speak with care knowing that what we say matters and respecting their position. Calling people of a race, sex, or religion evil, ugly, other hateful names isn’t genuine, it’s apathetic. And we’ve seen the effects of not being careful with what we say. It leads to attacks on people spurred on by this rhetoric. It tears us apart. I don’t use the R-word, or the N-word, or the C-word and it isn’t because I’m politically correct, it’s because I practice kindness and empathy in what I say. It’s about treating people with respect.

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Just a week or two ago Mark Zuckerberg published a letter to his newborn daughter. What he says has a big impact and reach and the internet has been a buzz ever since. Is he genuine? How do we react? What does this mean? Who thinks this means something? What is he really saying?

While I’d like to completely believe the sentiment is truly genuine the way he published it leaves room for cynicism. It wasn’t a call to action but a manifesto telling his daughter and the world that he is a good guy, that money doesn’t matter, and he was going to fix the world. With the letter Zuckerberg (and his wife who he spoke for as well) hit a nerve. There is an international inequity in philanthropy. From first scan it seemed as if Zuckerberg started what we’d call a charity, but he didn’t, he started an LLC, a limited liability company. He didn’t donate all his wealth; he pledged to eventually give it away. But I also want to shine the positive light on this letter. The cynicism shouldn’t take away from his desire in wanting to have a positive impact on the world, wanting all kids to be healthy and educated.

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While I was watching CNN Heroes and it was a celebration of great cause after great cause after great cause. The one thing that struck me while watching was that all of these heroes were people who saw a problem in their life, their community and tried to solve it. They started with one community water source, they started with their own small savings, they started with their own pain and effort to heal themselves. It didn’t take a billionaire, a politician, or a princess to make a huge difference in the world. The stories were all inspiring but what was more inspiring was being reminded that we all have the power to change the world for the better and become philanthropists without wealth or fame.

We have the power. That is the heart of this blog. I want to live my life as a philanthropist. I want to make a positive impact. I don’t have billions of dollars and I wasn’t born into royalty and I didn’t marry into a philanthropic position. But I can say things in my daily life to lift people up one by one, I can volunteer my time to help others, I can give some money away, and most importantly I can choose to act with kindness. I have the power to lead and hopefully inspire others to act with kindness. I may never get a White House retweet or have a billion dollar LLC but I can share my thoughts and actions to inspire others.

You have that power too. It comes in what you say. Our voices are counted in polls and votes and purchases and hours dedicated. The news is commonly quoting our tweets, even the ones we post in haste and delete. The hateful speech that villainizes others in our community isn’t just hurtful to those it’s directed at but also those who hear it so often that it seeps into them and harms them. You may not have billions of dollars but you do have billions of kind words and actions. You have the power to change the world for the better.

 

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