In Part One I wrote about one form of a language qualifier which reveals something about our internal well-being: Unsolicited Denials. That’s when a person spontaneously refutes a statement that hasn’t even been made. Like this: “I don’t hate them, I’m just angry about the incident.” (Oh, yeah?) Or, “I’m not name-dropping…”. Or, “It’s not like I’m afraid”. Well, if that’s the case, why did it enter into the conversation? Today I want to touch on another qualifier I’ve observed in myself and others: Unsolicited Rationalizations.
I quote Dr. Emmanuel Rosen, from his book Think Like a Shrink: 100 Principles for Seeing Deeply into Yourself and Others:
Jeff Goldblum delivers my favorite line from the movie The Big Chill: “Where would any of us be without a good rationalization?” We buffer every decision we make with a reason. It’s almost as if we anticipate that someone is going to ask why we do what we do. And to some extent our own worth depends on the ability to supply plausible logic to our actions.
Self- Preservation is Hard Work
I’ve had a black belt in rationalization, and I find that as I break through this wall of self-preservation life gets easier. Examples? When I hear myself or someone else use the word “just”, a yellow flag goes up. “I was just joking.” “I was just trying to help.” “I am just…”. Oh, really? Another form: “All I’m saying is…”. (There are healthy uses of those phrases, to be sure.)
Behind it all is a need to be right, because if I’m not right my self-worth is depleted, and I hide behind words. As Rosen says, we buffer every decision with a reason. It’s not the best way to live, because too much energy is wasted in keeping the fortress intact. How much better to own my shortcomings, get past the shame, and see others through the lens of grace.
A Better Way to Live
How about this: ” My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2).
Remember this: Unsolicited Qualifiers can be our friends. Like smoke alarms, they alert us to the possibility of fire. Be aware of this language in your life, and then investigate the cause. And if you want someone else to help sniff around, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff, email email@example.com to claim your prize.