There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I'm willing to bet we've all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don't care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let's explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.When I read the prompt this morning, I thought of something John Green said in his latest video: "Language exists to facilitate communication; to make my thoughts transparent to you and yours transparent to me." This statement can be considered a universal truth, after all what else could language be used for? Language enables me to share my perspective with you and allows you to respond and share your own perspective with me. That being said, I honestly don't mind being called diabetic or someone saying I'm testing my blood, rather than checking it.
I use these words all the time, and they don't have negative connotations for me. When I hear someone ask, "Are you testing your blood sugar?" I don't automatically think that he or she is implying that I am just some big human science experiment or that every blood sugar is a grade that I either pass or fail. I call myself diabetic, so I don't have a problem with others calling me this. Yes, I am a person with type one diabetes, but I am also a type one diabetic. Either works for me.
Often, it isn't the words themselves that hurt me when it comes to diabetes, it's the tone. A person's tone can completely change what something means; if someone asks me, "What is that?" in a confused tone of voice, that is an innocent question. If someone asks me the same question in a judgmental tone, of course I'll be offended. It isn't this person's (or anyone else's) place to judge the chronic illness I live with or how I manage it daily, and that is honestly the reason why so many have been hurt by people's words. Because they feel judged or chastised for something they simply cannot control. (Have you seen how annoyed I get when people are judgmental?)
Something I have come to realize, which I touched on a little yesterday, is that being offended by people's words, being angry about them, and dwelling on them won't help anyone. It won't help teach someone why what he or she said was offensive and rude. It won't make you feel better or live a happy life. It will just breed more anger and hatred in both parties. When someone's thoughts and actions are full of stigma, instead of yelling at him or her, take the opportunity to speak up to explain the reality of your situation. If someone makes a joke about eating too many sweets causing diabetes, calmly explain that diabetes, no matter what type, is influenced by genetic predisposition, as well as a variety of other factors. It's as simple as that. If he or she doesn't listen, don't stress out, just move on. Laugh off their ignorance later with the DOC and some friends and move on.
We all give words the power to make or break our days; I know some words hurt more than others, but us humans seem to focus on the negatives much more than the positives. Focus on the good. Focus on the friendships, the fun camp memories, and the great times you've had because of your diabetes; don't focus on the few complaints or jokes people have said at the expense of you and your diabetes. Others' language can make their uninformed thoughts transparent to you, and yours can make the truth of the matter transparent to them. It's a simple as that.
Do you have some of your own thoughts about language that you want to share with others? Do you want to read more posts about today's topic or just learn more about #DBlogWeek? If so, check out all of the info here.