*Lisa’s note: I wrote this in response to many a friends’ frustration with being told to “just……” in response to predicaments in which they have found themselves. It’s not meant as chastisement, but rather a check to see how we are responding, and maybe give us a more effective way to help. I’m really trying to be a better person, and this is part of my path.
“Just” is the dirtiest four-letter word I know. And I know a few of them.
Well-meaning people (and I count myself in that group) have told others, “Just blah blah blah….” in an effort to be kind, caring, and help provide a solution.
Here are my issues with using this word:
A.) It implies that the person you are “advising” is too stupid, ignorant or lazy to have come up with such a simple solution as the one you are “just” proposing.
Yes, folks have EUREKA! moments, and sometimes they need a nudge in the right direction to come to that point of clarity. But truth be told, we’ve probably run over that hamster wheel of thought many times already. We’ve factored in as many variables as possible.Telling us to “just” whatever is not really helping.
B.) It says that the problem at hand is not a big one, not a hard one to solve, and ergo, really not important.
It must be true, because the solution is so facile, you “just” have to whatever whatever whatever……
You are making a mountain out of a molehill, because the answer is right there.
Note: when you’re a mole, a molehill IS a mountain.
C.) It tries to diminish the impact of something you may be doing.
“I was just joking.”
But words hurt. And as the old adage goes, in every joke, there is a grain of truth. Your joke may fall on deaf ears.
“I was just having fun. I was just trying to help. I was just being cautious.”
The truth is often the opposite. The fun or help or caution can be more harmful, but using “just” to describe what you did is an attempt to take way the sting of your action or inaction. That little “just” could be the straw that breaks someone’s spirit.
D.) It’s shrugging off someone else’s dilemma.
What may seem so self-explanatory and plain in your view does not factor in what someone else is going through. Everyone has different extenuating circumstances. To apply a One Size Fits All mentality negates another person’s reality. You cannot take what would work for you and expect someone else to successfully translate that into his/her life. And you would not want someone else to do that to you.
I get it. This advice-giving comes from a place of wanting to help. Or a place of wanting to mollify oneself because you don’t know how to help. It’s common, and we don’t do this to be hurtful.
Everyone is going through something, and sometimes, we want or HAVE to tune out. So we offer the “just blah blah blah” wisdom.
I personally would prefer to hear the following:
“I’m sorry this is happening.”
“You are going to be okay. I am here to help you.”
“I can do (fill in the blank) for you. Would that be helpful?”
“I’m here, let’s talk.”
Or anything like that.
It’s not judgmental. It isn’t reductive. It isn’t demeaning or dismissive.
It’s supportive. It’s loving. It’s being kind.
And we need so much more kindness in this world.
I love my four-letter words. But I am banishing this particular one from my lexicon.