The title of this post might not be clear as to what I’m talking about, but it’s something that’s important so let me explain. There is a significant difference between how we should talk to/about ourselves vs how we talk to/about others. I’m not just talking about different pronouns, so you don’t sound odd by referring to yourself in the third person, but I mean certain types of phrases and language.
This past week, in response to Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondence Dinner speech, there have been a lot of people outraged about how she spoke about “someone’s wife/daughter/mother” in regards to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. In response, a lot of people have pointed out (and this is hardly the first time) that whether you love her or hate her, Huckabee Sanders is her own person, and not an extension of other people, but that referring to her detaches her, and only sees her through the lens of those other people. I tend to agree with this.
So, I thought about it, and in my own personal life, I do tend to think of myself as a husband, and a father, and a son. Those are the roles that I’m most proud of in my life, and perhaps Sarah Huckabee Sanders feel about herself, a great amount of pride and definition in those roles, but that’s for her to decide, and not to be thrust upon her.
Let me give a different example to try to illustrate my point. If you’re in a relationship, we’ll say 10 years that feels like a good solid number, and that relationship falls apart. The absolute last thing that you want to hear, and the last thing people should tell you, is “everything happens for a reason.” It’s not helpful, and honestly it feels cruel. You need to go through all the emotions, and while it’s not intended as anything more than comfort, it’s never comforting.
Now, let’s take the same example, 10 years then break up, then 5 years, and you’re getting married to a new person, and life seems to be going great, and you think to yourself “everything happens for a reason.” That’s a great outlook, and helps you to be at peace with the past.
The important thing in both the “wife/mother” and “everything happens” examples is perspective. Not only the perspective of it being introspective vs being a throw-away platitude, but also the fact that one is an embracing of pride, or comfort, and the other is used to gloss over, and not really deal with the bigger issue.
Do I think most people who say these things are ill intention-ed? No, probably not. They’re just not interested in doing the harder more compassionate things (i.e. empathizing with Huckabee Sanders and not her children/husband/father, or listening and letting someone work through their emotions.) It’s more emotional laziness, than callousness, but it should be corrected either way.