Sunday, September 21, 2014
It's just a simple little word, really. It exists in all languages.
But the English adjective "my" (and its possessive pronoun equivalent, "mine") can cause endless trouble. Employing "my" is the linguistic equivalent of peeing on something to mark it as your "turf". My house, my car, my dog, my partner, my job, my airplane, my position, my seniority. Of course, the larger implication when we use "my" is that it is "NOT YOURS" (sometimes followed by the word "bitch", for emphasis)! "My" is the ultimate excluder; the epitome of "ranking" on another person or group. And we employ it liberally to make our most critical point(s).
As a student of language, I'm fascinated by the way we choose words to express an underlying thought process. Sometimes, those words are precise and pointed. Other times, they are vague and full of implication, open to interpretation. It is the latter usage that fascinates me so, as it apparently does others. "What did s/he mean by that?" is a question that can launch all-out war, either literal or figurative. "My legacy culture is being lost/ruined by this merger." Get my drift? It's not the words, the semantics, that matter as much as it is the underlying thought that propagates them. "This is something of value to me. I'm afraid to lose it." So what do I do?
I defend it. I extoll it. I even imbue it with qualities it never actually possessed. And I OWN it. "You can't touch this. It's mine!"
As children, we are taught sharing as a fundamental for growth, much like tying one's own shoelaces. Selfishness is bad. Sharing is good. One assumes that adults all learned and practice this valuable lesson. Perhaps this assumption is flawed. Or perhaps we suspend the tenets of sharing in special, very important circumstances, like the loss of something critically important to defining who we are or who we see ourselves as being.
Clearly, "mine" must evolve into "our" before substantive progress can be made toward unity with another individual or group. How does this happen?
Institutionally, a "clean sweep" approach can detach the strongest tendrils of legacy thinking and identification; a $100K early-out opportunity, for example. Once those strongest links to memories of past greatness and self-identification are removed, a natural evolution begins. The "new wave" stakes its legitimate claim on building a new, distinct future. The voices of the past fade; the voices of the future assert themselves and begin to form a new identity.
Individually, we have the power to be part of this magic, no matter where we find ourselves in the process. The next time you feel the urge to assert yourself by using "my" or "mine" when discussing something important, try substituting "our" or "ours". Go ahead, force yourself. It's practically painless.
Feel good about being part of the solution, even if you were part of the original problem. (ESPECIALLY if you were part of the problem!) Take the leap of faith: OUR very best days lie ahead.