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be careful what you say, it will be

February 11, 2014

What if I was to say that I know that there is only one reason that you open your mouth to speak? It doesn’t matter the circumstances. There are no exceptions.

Only one reason.

How would you feel if I said that? Well, let’s see!

I know there is only one reason that you speak.

Words come out of your mouth for only one purpose – to create a future.

Words are powerful beyond our understanding.

Success: noun,  the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.

When you say the words “Could I have a glass of water?” you have created a future in which someone may shortly bring you a glass of water. Until you spoke those words that particular future did not exist. Now it does.

Collateral: adjective, aside from the main subject, course, etc.; secondary.

We use words to describe and then invent tools, we invent systems and processes that use those tools and sometimes, when we come up with something never-before seen, we invent new words or phrases to describe them so that we can tell others how incredibly clever we have been.  Other times the words make it clear how incredibly stupid we are.

Collateral damage: noun,  any damage incidental to an activity.

Collateral damage is a phrases you will have heard before. Often used in relation to another just war, it is used to describe the negative impacts experienced by things you would prefer not to damage in the process of doing damage to the things you do want to damage.

Of course it doesn’t just happen to things, it happens to people too. People we would prefer not to hurt get hurt in the process of hurting the people we do want to hurt.  And so, as it is designed to, the words create a future in which we are distanced from, and desensitised to, the appalling  consequences that are “collateral damage”.

And in that regard we are incredibly creative and imaginative creatures. If there is a negative we can find a way for it to become a positive. And if there is a positive, well, we will surely find an inventive way to make it negative.

And so it was in the context of delivery of humanitarian aid (surely a positive?) that I heard a new phrase that, while it might sound better, is much, much worse than collateral damage. Much worse because in speaking just two words a future had been created where providing shelter, security, water and food to tens of thousands of refugees became incidental to the main game. The words?

 Collateral success.

“Your job”, he had said, ” is to make me look good. If we achieve some collateral success along the way that is fine, but what I am focused on is getting promoted out of here.”

There, among those most in need of help, someone had found a way to make their lives something secondary, an aside from the main subject – the promotion and advancement of the individual who had spoken. Those words powerfully created a new future. A future where providing shelter, security, water and food to tens of thousands of refugees became incidental to the main game. And it was.

And so I stand by my claim. I know there is only one reason that you speak. Words come out of your mouth for only one purpose – to create a future.

So be careful what you say. It will be.

***

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