Friday, 22 June 2012

De-souling effects of misapplied words: resources and dysfunctional

  Two words, widely used these days, are symptomatic of the reduction of soul to self in our society. The first of these, "resource," is commonly used of people who can help us in our work. I can still remember how jarring that word sounded to me when I first heard it used forty years ago by a man who was giving me direction in my work of developing a new congregation. He kept pushing me to identify the resource-people that I could use in my work. And then I noticed that he was using the word as a verb; he frequently offered to resource our church board, our financial committee, our planning committee.
  But "resource" identifies a person as something to be used. There is nothing personal to a resource - it is a thing, stuff, a function. Use the word long enough and it begins to change the way we view a person. It started out harmlessly enough as a metaphor and as such was found useful, I guess. But when it becomes habitual, it erodes our sense of this person as soul - relational at the core and God-dimensioned. 
  And "dysfunctional." It is alarming how frequently people are referred to as dysfunctional: dysfunctional families, dysfunctional committees and congregations, dysfunctional leaders, dysfunctional relationships, dysfunctional politicians. But dysfunctional is not a personal word, it is mechanical. Machines are dysfunctional but not souls; bicycles are dysfunctional but not children; water pumps are dysfunctional but not spouses. The constant, unthinking use of the word erodes our sense of worth and dignity inherent in the people we meet and work with no matter how messed up they are. 
  We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and then they end up using us. Our imaginations become blunted. We end up dealing only with surface, functions, roles. 

    - p. 38-39, Christ plays in ten thousand places by Eugene Peterson

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