At a recent social event a woman began mocking the religious beliefs of someone she worked with. She joked about his religious principles and ridiculed the personal, private actions that went with them. Her behaviour cut through me like a knife. I felt a gash of pain deep in my chest as she made another human being the target of her dark humour in this way. Her comments quickly escalated to mocking people with accents. I could tolerate the wrenching pain it caused in me no longer and suggested she refrain from this behaviour. I said it gently but clearly, suspecting I would be the next target of this verbal mistreatment. “I’m not politically correct”, was her answer. So what exactly did that mean, I wondered?
For several days afterward the idea kept popping into my head. What does it mean to be politically correct (PC) and how does this really affect us in our everyday lives? The definition of PC taken from Webster’s is the notion that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people. It seems pretty simple yet some say it’s gone too far while others say it’s not gone far enough. Looking at the definition again it seems to mean refraining from language or behaviour that harms others. Taking this one step further, I ask myself why someone would want to do that? Why is it acceptable to use language in the form of humour, exclusion, or outright abuse to harm others in any way, no matter what the situation?
When we strip away all the rhetoric the reason it’s not acceptable is actually very simple; another term for PC is kindness. Kindness is defined by Webster’s as the state of being considerate. This is the state of being thoughtful, respectful, understanding and caring. If it’s not kind, don’t say it. If it hurts someone (even by association) then don’t do it. Inflicting pain on others is never the road to one’s own best self and in the end, it’s the one who is unkind that appears in a negative light by engendering damage.
So kindness is really the underlying intention of PC and if we use this term instead of “PC” it makes all our decisions much easier. I suggest we substitute PC for kindness in both word and deed because this not only makes decisions simple and clear it also puts our words and actions in their rightful place.
Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Joyeux Noel. Happy Hanukkah. Buon Natale. Best of the Season to You. However you celebrate, may it be joyous.
Dr. Teresa L. DeCicco is the author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses: The Emergence of a Spiritual Being” and “The Giant Compass: Navigating The Life of Your Dreams”. See more of her work at www.teresadecicco.com