Tolerance = Eventual Acceptance

Tolerance = Eventual Acceptance (Audio)

A number of years ago I began working for a new boss on one of my many IT gigs. He was direct, forceful, and yet with a boyish appeal, he could turn a room of professionals his way with a little boy snigger and a joke that would have been painfully cute coming from an innocent kid. But he was a grown man and it was downright uncomfortable in any company, much less mixed company. He used phrases that would shrink the room as the gasp of oxygen drained all available air and sucked the walls closer. An apology, but then he would jump with both feet into the reason for the meeting and get things accomplished.

I’ve looked back at this over the years and realize it was his passive-aggressive style of leadership that would make you uncomfortable and then he was in control. You had a hard time standing up to him.

But I also noticed something else. Eventually, others started using his phrases, and with acceptance the stakeholders would just smile, look at my boss and acknowledge they could shake up a room just like him.

At least, that’s the way I remember it. 

A leadership style that crosses disciplines often looks for ways to handle all the personalities and baggage. From passion, aggression, to language. Many look for the key to control the temperature in the room.

So, I paused this morning and thought back to other situations where language was often the key to controlling or eliciting a response.

A decade earlier than this event I had a boss from another country. We were working in the oil and gas environment and we dealt with a lot of gutter language coming from co-workers and customers alike. He was talented, passionate about his job, and very dictatorial. His English skills came from language school on another continent and it was full of gutter speak, especially when he was upset. It mattered little who was the subject of his ire, foul language flowed like a fire hydrant.

I never heard this kind of language from my family, nor was it ever used on TV back in the 50’s and 60’s. Entertainment was mild and euphemistic words were often spoken when the moment required some expression. When someone tells me a popular actor used the “F” word 506 times in a recent film it makes me realize how far my head is in the sand, and how shocked I still am when folks say it so casually.

Throughout my career, I’ve been accosted by many who think it okay to use language like this in a casual or caustic way. I remember refusing to play with local kids who let their foul language soil the experience! It may be that I’m a product of my generation, but I do believe we’ve brought the gutter to the professional workplace, personal space, entertainment, and it doesn’t fit, nor does it belong.

What we tolerate gets accepted. We cultivate what we celebrate. Click To Tweet

At 0 dark 30 this morning, sometime after I woke up at 3:30 am…this thought came to me out of the blue.

Language seems to be so unrestrained these days. Generational crude language is used with ease by younger audiences. I remember the shock once felt when used, and now it’s in the hands of unrestrained. It’s a fearful thing to have no boundaries.

It’s in the hands of the unrestrained and they have no boundaries.

I’m still bothered when someone says, “Pardon my French” and what they are saying is not a foreign language. It’s simply a way to get you to accept their speech pattern as their norm. I can walk away from these conversations and never miss the speaker because I do not comprehend why ANYONE thinks this is okay.

In the Apostle Paul’s last known letter to anyone, he writes to Timothy about his use of language. It was not gutter words he was telling him to avoid, rather, it’s the framework of language that speaks love, life, faith, grace and truth into any situation.

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13 NKJV)

Notice his phrase: the pattern of sound words. The structure of the words we use must be as important as the words themselves!

What was Paul’s pattern or form of speaking? Maybe it was the connection back to Jesus teaching in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Simply put? Don’t respond the same way you receive it! (Matthew 5:38-39) Paul had dealt with many cultures and people while on his missionary journey. You may say he had seen and heard it all! But his focus was to remind Timothy that the words he would speak would follow the pattern of Paul and Jesus.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63 NKJV)

Since the pattern of our spiritual lives follows the one whose spirit resides within us, the words you speak are Spirit, and they are life!

The half-brother of Jesus teaches how powerful the language that flows from us is to those who hear, and to ourselves.

Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:4-10 NKJV)

His closing thought? Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing…these things ought not to be so.

If you have any spiritual representation to lives in this world, then foul, vulgar and inappropriate language should not be part of your vocabulary. Nor should euphemistic words replace foul language because words spoken out of haste and anger can easily represent the foul spirit you have within.

When life slaps you into the next century, simply turn the other cheek. The tongue and the words you speak defiles what? The whole body! Nothing you produce can be profitable by the gutter language that the world around you finds acceptable. You need not tolerate it, accept it, nor celebrate it.

I’m just saying! Maybe it’s time we stop tolerating what we do not accept in our personal words. A vote with your feet and dollar can speak volumes to those who think it’s okay and normal.


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