Speak no evil

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Speak no evil

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I often think about the time in high school when I made a horrible remark about a classmate.

Joking around with friends, I called the person a “fag” and a “tranny.” They overheard me, and I can still remember clearly their look of betrayed, pained anger.

They never forgave me.

Today, if I heard anyone be so cruel to another person, I’d be the first to put them in their place. We have a responsibility to watch our language and use it safely around others.

We all have our opinions and preconceptions about others, spawned from experience and hearsay and developed over the course of our lives.

Stereotypes exist because of our natural tendency to take what little we understand and use it to rationalize everything we don’t.

However, this leads us to say things that are uninformed and insulting to others. It was this reductive ignorance behind what I said to my classmate.

In college, I was fortunate enough to befriend people who lived the lifestyles I once mocked and reviled. Friendship puts one in a position of unconditional positive regard, and it was from this that I refused to let my prejudices continue.

While you may think you’re making a joke, you’re actually making an outward expression of your shortsighted understanding of another person. As such, a more accepting society has to start with you.

These days, I seriously watch what I say to others. Realizing, “Oh, I’ve been a jerk and have treated other humans like punchlines undeservedly” was probably the best thing to happen to me.

We can insist people are just “too sensitive,” but instead of calling something “gay” or “retarded,” consider the thousands of euphemisms at one’s disposal. Challenge yourself to use more considerate words, and rather than insulating oneself from different worldviews, consider the feelings of others and try to understand the harm we inflict with our words and actions.

It’s a fallacy to believe words don’t hurt because they inherently have the power we give them. We can’t forget, however, that we can take that power and turn it into something creative rather than destructive.

I can’t help that I’ll never get to apologize, but I can take it upon myself to keep anyone else from feeling the way I made my classmate feel.

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