How often do you really pay attention to your choice of words as you express yourself?
Do you believe in the power of language to create an experience?
Constructive Use of Language
I have long believed in the power of language and the energy we create when we choose our words carefully and what happens when we don’t.
In health care and human services, for example, we are bombarded with labels, diagnoses, syndromes, and a plethora of academic and organizational language. Within the system we currently live in where funding for services is of great focus, this kind of terminology works in our favor when we are seeking access to services and supports.
We use this language to prove that the service is needed.
Destructive Use of Language
On the other hand, much of this language serves to perpetuate stigma, prejudice, discrimination, marginalization, and ultimately separation. We tend to become reliant on certain words and jargon in order to get our point across quickly. But is this really what it’s all about?
When I began my academic preparation for human services work, I was accepted into a program that was called Mental Retardation Counselor. Shortly, after the first semester began, the program was renamed and became Developmental Services Worker. We were encouraged right from the start to always think in terms of “person first.” So, instead of saying the “autistic child,” it was preferable to say the “child with autism.”
Feels like a step in the right direction, however, if we look closely, there is still an emphasis on “autism.” And while it is so important to be aware of and honor the unique characteristics and needs of each person we are serving, it is equally crucial that we do not use these terms and diagnoses to create a limited identity for people.
For example, if you are familiar at all with the word, “autism,” there are likely a whole slew of images, ideas, and interpretations you make almost automatically about the person I am describing. And whether you would describe these images as positive or negative, affirming or destructive, the jump to the conclusion is the real problem here. At that moment, intentional or not, we have put this person inside a particular “box.” We also do this when we refer to mental health, substance abuse, survivors of childhood trauma, and on and on.
Conscious Use of Language
The challenge is to continue to open our minds so that we learn from each individual we serve and those we are blessed with in our personal lives what it means to be them. How does this person live their identity? What ELSE makes them who they are?
How can I use language to demonstrate my openness and willingness to learn about the people who come into my life? How can I speak in ways that show my deep respect for humanity and my commitment to acceptance?
This is an ongoing challenge for those of us involved in Vocations of Service. It is a continual process of integration of new knowledge, self-reflective practice, and engagement with others.
It is about being conscious as we choose the words which will best express our clearest and deepest intentions and beliefs. And if we get tongue-tied, we can always come back with something new to say.
What do you wish to see in your Service to others? How can you communicate with others so they know what you are all about?
What do you intend to create and contribute to this world? How would you explain this to a child?
If you could imagine the best possible scenario in your communities, what language would best describe it?
This is just a glimpse of a much larger discussion.
I dove more deeply into this material in this episode of Serving Consciously with my guest, Valerie Marks.
Valarie Marks is a retired public school teacher who left her career at the age of 32 to start an educational services organization grounded in the principles of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs;” an organization providing parents and educational institutions with resources to best nurture, protect, and educate the generations here to Re-create our world.
During her time in the classroom, Valarie also developed an English Language Arts curriculum which uses rhythmic thought patterns to teach academics, not only to build analytical skills within Common Core, but also to open up the student’s psyche for creativity and receptivity.
Valarie is also a mother to three children of her own, ages 10, 8, and 6. Because one of her sons was identified as autistic just months after her leap of faith into retirement, Valarie’s life mission in creating the “Maslow Educational Services Organization” took a sharp turn, pulling her out of the classroom entirely and deep into the world of Autism. With a population each so uniquely divine, this new chapter deepened her understanding of the needs and challenges facing the youth of today.
Valarie is currently stepping back into the classroom through her new company, “Marks Education,” where the mission is to teach children how to look at the whole English language for its individual parts, so they can craft their own words to accurately express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, as well as to keenly understand the words and intentions of others.
She also speaks her Truth to a more intellectual audience through blogs on her Facebook page ~ Valarie Marks, through writing and short videos on topics about self-acceptance, intimacy, and unconditional love.
Valarie is here to talk about how she is serving consciously through her life mission: teaching adults how to nurture, protect, and educate a generation here to deconstruct our current world not just to restore it, but creatively recreate life as we know it into a beautiful future.
Valarie’s work is so important for those of us who wish to be actively involved in recreating the world.
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Does language have energy and power in your books? I’d love to hear your thoughts.