I have been in the midst of a personal challenge for the past several months. I have been trying to stop saying “just.”
It began when I heard one of those radio shows where people call in and guess the answer to a question. The question was: “What is the one word that you can stop saying at work to make you sound smarter?” I thought the answer would be “um” or “like.” Much to my surprise, the answer was “just.”
After the answer was revealed, the radio host presented some examples of how people do this at work.
In an email: “Just wanted to remind you that your report is due next week!”
During a meeting: “I just thought it might be a good idea if we…”
And the the one of which I am most guilty: “This is just my opinion, but…”
I immediately thought of how significant this is beyond the work setting. I began to notice how often I said “just” in this type of manner. In fact, shortly after I heard this, a video documentary about the church in Hamilton was released in which I had participated. I said “just” so many times in my clip that I wanted to smack my own face on the screen.
“I just have to say that it’s just so wonderful to be part of something like this. It’s just been so great.”
Clearly, I had a problem.
I began to pay attention to how often I said just and in what context. Almost always it was to come across as more gentle, less offensive or less aggressive. “ I just wanted to tell you that I was thinking of you this week…” Or “This is just an idea I had…” Or “I just think this is something you might want to think about.”
But none of these things are “just” something. They are each important, and meaningful. Why not say: “I want to tell you I’m thinking of you.” “This is my idea.” “I’d like you to think about…” It’s not just a little message or a little idea. It’s what I want to say, what I think, what I have chosen to tell you – and it matters.
I just think that sometimes we just feel like if we just use a little word like just that it can soften something just a little and it just won’t seem as threatening. Or it’s just that we feel like it’s “just” me and that I just don’t have as much to contribute as someone else. It’s just a real problem.
I began to make a real effort to say “just” less, especially in writing. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself pressing backspace on an email or a facebook message because I’d done it again. “Just little old me here!!” “Just my thoughts!” “Just reminding you of our meeting tonight!!”
There are, of course, lots of times “just” is still useful. For example, our church motto is “Come, Just As You Are,” and I think it’s pretty great. But I realized I used “just” way too often in ways that basically said: “This doesn’t matter all that much.” After all, it’s just me.
It was time to stop. Not because I wanted to sound smarter, but because with that little word I was telling myself and others a lie every time I said it. The lie was: “It’s just me.”
I am not “just me.” I am me. My thoughts or ideas are not “just” my thoughts. They are my thoughts, my ideas – often my very heart. That is not “just” anything.
What was interesting? For me, the practice of deleting “just” in these contexts soon became a reminder to think of myself as God sees me. Perhaps this sounds like a leap, but I am not “just anybody” to God. And neither are you.
Just something for you to think about!
SOMETHING FOR YOU TO THINK ABOUT.
I hope you will.