Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Challenge to Stop Using the Four Letter F-Word!

Words are important to me. My Love Language is words of affirmation. I majored in English. No refuge is as comforting to me as the pages of a good book. When I want to express my feelings and gratitude (and anger, for that matter) they always come out best through words. This is something that God and I have in common. Words are very important to Him as well, so much so that one of the titles for His Only Begotten Son is, in fact, The Word.

These important tools of communication tend to get twisted and turned around by us humans and our inability to leave things be. Think about the term ‘gay’ as an example. Once upon a time it meant happy and spirited. Now it means something drastically different. 

In other cases the meaning of a word is not so much twisted as it is diluted. That has happened with the term, Awesome. At one point, this described things that brought about pure awe and wonder. It was reserved for the most astounding and inspiring things. Not so much, anymore. It now refers to anything that is at all slightly positive in nature. Slang tends to do that. That is one reason I am so excited to learn about the Adamic Language, but that is a completely tangential topic for another time.

In my college days we learned in a class about the technicalities of language that the words you are most exposed to in your life will be the ones that integrate themselves into your vocabulary. This is why well-read people tend to have a much more vast store of verbiage to use than uneducated people. The more you hear a phrase or term, the more likely you will be to begin using that as part of your natural repertoire of verbal language.

One positive example I have of this comes from Emma’s days in Kindergarten. Her teacher pulled me aside one day to tell me that she had never had a student ask her how to spell, ‘Nevertheless’. Miss Emma had actually been listening as we were reading the scriptures, and that stuck with her. Exposure to good language is a wonderful thing. Exposure to less than quality language can be very detrimental.

I see a lot of words being thrown around with far too much repetition, but one that has really gotten me concerned as of late is the word ‘Fail’. This word has spurned something of an internet sensation. One example is the ‘Hat Fail’ meme which pictures a man wearing a baseball hat on backwards while shielding his eyes from the sun. That effort would not have been necessary had he simply turned that hat around so the brim could be put to the purpose it was originally intended for. Hat Fail!

Another example is the ‘Job Fail.’ I have seen a few versions with this tag line, but my favorite one shows a dead and flattened armadillo in the middle of the road with the yellow road lines painted over the top of the sad corpse. Clearly, whoever painted that line could have kicked aside the deceased reptile, but decided that would be too much effort. 

The final example I will share in this instance is thePinterest Fail. It seems there will be no end of these pictures. These come from people who see ideas on Pinterest and try to replicate them, but find that the process was a little harder than they originally thought, and they end up with a large and humorous mess

These internet sensations with their witty captions are meant to be funny, and often they are. I love to laugh, and have had quite a few moments of happy levity through these images. I firmly believe that God has a sense of humor, and it is clear that Thomas S. Monson loves to laugh as well, so I see no problem with finding humor in every day instances. Marjorie Pay Hinckley said that when bad things happened she always preferred laughing over crying. I use those examples just to show that I am not trying to wag my finger of disdain in the face of anyone who has found a lot of fun and humor in those kinds of web memes.

Sadly, however, those innocent examples are not where this trend stopped. It goes far deeper into much more sacred and personal areas that are highly inappropriate to joke about. Some of these examples are Friendship Fails, Parenting Fails, Marriage Fails, and so on. Nobody should judge or mock these areas of other people’s lives. However, because those earlier examples of innocuous humor were acceptable, these more personal and important ideas are allowed to pass as well.
Add to this increasing desensitization the fact that the more you hear and see the word, ‘Fail’, the more likely you will be to use that word in your daily dealings. This has led so many people to feel that they are failing and to claim failure after things that are in no way actual failures. Rather, most of those things are really just mistakes, setbacks, challenges, and even true accomplishments. NOT FAILURES!

Being late to pick up your kids from school is not a failure. It is a scheduling conflict, and something to improve on.

Having a hard time losing the weight you gained by having children does not mean you have failed. It means you made an amazing sacrifice to bring those children into this world, which act not only made your body have a harder time losing weight, but also thrust you into a lifestyle which makes it harder to find the time and means to be as healthy and fit as you would like.

Burning the casserole for dinner does not mean you failed. It means you made a mistake. It could even be a sign that you have spread yourself too thin. It could also have been your subconscious mind telling you that casseroles are gross and you can just order pizza.

Not getting that much anticipated raise does not mean you failed. It just means you are not progressing at the rate you wanted. 

Getting sick and having to let go of some of your daily tasks and chores does not make you a failure. It makes you human. It makes you depend on others for a bit. It gives you a chance to see how loved you are by others.

So, how then, have we come to label all of those things as ‘Epic Fails’?! It is sad and incredibly damaging. It is from comparison. It is Satan.

This is the most frustrating part about this whole Fail culture that is forming. We are rating these failures by comparing them with the experiences of people around us. If our child is not as smart or attractive or well behaved as the kids next door, then surely we are failing in some way as a parent. If we do not make as much money as the people across the street, then we are definitely failing in our career, right? If we cannot keep weeds out of our yard when the house two blocks over always looks amazing, then we are failures as homeowners, indeed. 

This kind of comparison is like spiritual poison and will lead to a lot of needless pain and anguish, and will crush many opportunities for service and love between neighbors, family, co-workers, and many other people you brush shoulders with on a daily basis. The Destroyer knows that, and he will use that to harm you in whatever way he can. The fewer true friends you have, the less likely you are to stay strong and faithful when the other temptations arise.

Arguably worse is the fact that the only time people tend to feel that they are actually doing well is when they see others failing. How often are we longing to see someone else mess up or show their weaknesses so that we can feel more validated and strong over on our end? How ridiculous! Being better at your job than the lady you work with does not make you a winner nor does it make her a failure. Instead, it makes you an agent of Satan and of his devices and efforts to tear people down.
The fallen star of the morning knows us. He is intimately aware of our strengths and our weaknesses. It is this knowledge that gives him such power for manipulation and deceit. He uses this power of comparison as a flaxen cord to lead you away from the good things in the world. He might know he can’t get you to leave your spouse or start taking drugs. That is good. However, he also knows that he CAN get you to doubt your worth. He knows that he CAN get you to give up on your good efforts. He knows that he CAN get you to judge others around you and prevent any real relationship ever forming there.

If you would like to live a fail-free life, then you need to turn to the one thing that never faileth, and that is Charity. The Pure Love of Christ. 

When you are falling into the trap of labeling yourself as a failure at every turn, then you are taking away your hope and faith in the Savior. You are denying Him the power to heal and improve you through the Atonement. 

The only way any misstep or mistake can ever be permanent is if we let it become that way through complacency. God is amazingly smart, and his plan reflects that. He also loves us an awful lot, and His plan is pretty good proof of that as well. We have a way to become perfect and to leave all those petty would-be failures behind. 

We just need to actively utilize the Pure Love of Christ on our behalf through the means of repentance and prayer, and then work to love others with the same amount of energy and persistence as Christ has shown us.  

Charity never faileth, and neither will you if you have the right mindset and relationship with the Savior.