I'd like to dedicate this post to those words we all use in everyday conversation, jokes, or as mocking insults. Words that hurt even those they aren't directed at. You all know what I mean - words like retard or cripple - and the attitude that goes with them.
We don't even notice that we're doing it half the time. A friend makes a stupid comment and the automatic response that comes out of many mouths (especially teenagers) is, "Retard!" It's accepted as an insult and everyone knows what it means. Yet it's a serious problem in terms of being a serious insult to people who truly do have mental disabilities, and a sometimes fatal blow to people's self esteem.
Right now, the Special Olympics is doing something called the R-word Pledge that goes like this:
"I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities."It's worth looking into, especially if you find you have children who throw the word around carelessly. I know my teens do and I've spoken to them about it repeatedly. Unfortunately without success.
Really it's just a matter of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. Think how you would feel if you had a mental disability that already made you selfconscious about your abilities. Then imagine what it would feel like to offer an opinion on an issue and have a friend respond by calling you the R-word. They aren't doing it to be purposely hurtful, but it hits right at the most insecure part of you, where you already doubt your own self-worth and whether your opinion has any validity.
I know I feel it. Not with regards to my mental abilities, but physical ones. Despite the fact that I've proven over and over again to myself and others that I am just as capable as any two-handed person, I still suffer from extreme insecurity about my capabilities of doing anything physical. So when someone calls me a cripple and says that I can't do such-and-such because of it, it truly is a blow to my already suffering self esteem.
Having felt it, I can honestly say I hope I never cause another person to feel the same way. I do my best to guard my words to avoid any "slur" that can harm another, no matter whether it is racial, sexual, mental or physical in origin. It truly plays into the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The negative of that statement holds true as well. "Do not do unto others as you would not wish to have done to you."
Keep that in mind before you open your mouth to say what you think is harmless.