Baha’i Faith: Day 13

March 7 was Spread the Word to End the Word Day – a day dedicated to spreading awareness of the effect of the word “retard” (and all its hurtful forms) and asking people to remove it from their vocabulary.

And to be clear, the campaign is not asking for the word to be removed from the English language. Yes, there are legitimate uses for the word. The movement serves to spread awareness of the derogatory uses of the word.

Anyways, I really wanted to tie this into a post about the faith and didn’t get it done in time. For this one, I consulted a few friends for ideas. I wanted to go beyond the obvious “treat people as you’d like to be treated.”

I want to talk instead about the power of words. I find it amazing sometimes that people refuse to recognize the power of words when they say we shouldn’t ask to stop the inappropriate use of the r-word. It is a simple fact that words have power. Of course they do – why else would we speak with each other, read books, write blogs? So what does the faith have to say about words?

“Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible. The Great Being saith: One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence which both exert is manifest in the world.”

I absolutely love this. Each word has a spirit. Isn’t that exactly the case with the r-word? It has a meaning, but it also has a spirit. That spirit is exactly what causes us speak out against such a vile word.

“And likewise He saith: One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose-garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison. It behoveth a prudent man of wisdom to speak with utmost leniency and forbearance so that the sweetness of his words may induce everyone to attain that which befitteth man’s station.”

When we open our mouths to speak, place our fingers on the keyboard to type, pick up a pen to write – we have a choice. We can choose to use words that cause others to flourish or we can choose to use words that hurt their spirit, that poison them. The r-word is a poison to those that hear it, and even to those that say it. It is a poison to compare your foolish or inefficient or strange behavior to the cognitive ability of my child.

“Content, volume, style, tact, wisdom, timeliness are among the critical factors in determining the effects of speech for good or evil. Consequently, the friends need ever to be conscious of the significance of this activity which so distinguishes human beings from other forms of life, and they must exercise it judiciously. Their efforts at such discipline will give birth to an etiquette of expression worthy of the approaching maturity of the human race.”

Being conscious of the words you choose – written or spoken aloud – is not about being politically correct. It is about being a mature human being and about just being a plain ol’ decent human being.

People with developmental disabilities are asking you, with great tact and clarity, to stop using the r-word inappropriately. Just as you would never dream of using a racial slur to describe your behavior, please remove the r-word from your list of possible descriptions.

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