18 February 2018

The Tyranny of the Word "Just"


The Tyranny of the Word "Just"
By Carrie Fancett Pagels

I've been wanting to post on this topic for a long time. When I was in a boot for many years, for my heel problems from my RA, I kept thinking I'd do a post. Then when I went back into a boot again for my recent broken ankle, I determined I had to finally write this up. What spurred me on, too, was coming across this topic on a work-related blog, in which they had a very different viewpoint than mine on the problem with using the word, "just." In that post, they made it sound like young people at work could make it clear that they knew what they were doing by specifying "just" in the instructions!
Here's one of my favorite (I'm being facetious) uses of the word. During a time when I couldn't even get down my home's hallway without excruciating pain in every step, I was told that I could "Just fill out the form and put it out in the mailbox!" Really?  My mailbox is across the road. At the time I'm not sure I could have crossed the road even if someone held a gun to my head. And who amongst us hasn't spoken with a tech person who has advised us, "If you'd just do (something they know because they are a specialist" with the inference that by not knowing this thing the person was ignorant.
The use of "just" infers that something is supposed to be easy. But its all POV. If someone, when I was twenty, had told me to "Just run/jog down the road a mile" that would have been easy. I was a runner. This word, "just", has become one of my least favorite words. I've tried to get more careful, myself, about using this word. When I start saying something can just be accomplished if, I try to back up and rephrase it. I've started changing it to, "If you do (first step, second step) then this other thing could possibly be accomplished." That usually opens the door a little better for the person to explain if step one or step two has an issue that has to be addressed. But to go in and tell someone "If they'll just do step one, step two" implies those two steps are easy. Furthermore, doesn't it seem like they are telling you that you should have figured out or done this simple thing?

Question: How about you? Have you been tyrannized by the word, just?

Giveaway: Box of books to one of my commenters this week.

52 comments:

  1. I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it. Your right, I hate when people say 'just'. Sometimes, (ok, a lot of times) I would like someone to show me rather than say 'just'. That leaves me confused and wanting to cry at the same time. If I need something explained to me then I don't appreciate it.

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    1. I agree with you, Karen. Thanks for coming by and sharing!

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  2. Oh my!!!! Yes, "just" has been spoken to me and at times has made me very grouchy to hear the word "just". "You'll feel better if you just lose weight." I know, I know.... "Just" stop telling me. hahahaha!!!!

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    1. Yes, "just" tends to be used in a condescending manner a lot of the time! Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

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  3. I was thinking I really hadn't been tyrannized by the word, just. But when I read Melissa's comment about 'if you just lose weight' I realized I had. Actually most of my adult life I have done negative self-talk w/ that word...if I could just lose 20 pounds, if I could just shut my mouth, if I could just lose 30 pounds, if I could just be more patient, if I would just be more consistent in my prayer life and on and on. Maybe one day I will be able to just 😉shut that inner gal up and love myself for who I am, knowing that I am beloved of the Father, chosen, redeemed and righteous because of the Cross! Thank you for sharing, Carrie...a good reminder.

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    1. Thanks, Anne, for thinking about this one and commenting! I'm trying to get better about using "just" in my conversation, especially with our teenager. Blessings!

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    2. Oh, my, Anne! I'm guilty of the same thing! Now if I could just...
      It's so imbedded in our thoughts and culture, hard to break it. I am going to try!
      Blessings~

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  4. I remember when people would say if you would just...leave him...when I was being abused. I would think easier said than done. I had two small children, didn’t drive, lived isolated, was ashamed...etc. Don’t say if you would just...unless you are willing to help. Just my opinion...😁🙃😘

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    1. Hi Leila. Usually the folks saying "if you would just" have no intention of helping you -- they are treating you like what they are saying is something easy and they may have no clue.

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  5. Carrie, this post is brilliant! A simple little four letter word can make you absolutely see red at times. The word"just"sometimes makes you feel stupid when it is thrown at you in certain situations. With so many wonderful words in our vocabulary, let's all rethink like you have done and take a different approach. Thank you for bringing this to light.

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    1. Hi Melanie! I didn't think about "just" being a four-letter word, but it sure is! And not a good one! Blessings!

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  6. Oh wow Carrie! This is so true! The sad part is that not only do other people seem condescending when they use it, I talk down to myself using it too. I'm going to really try to eliminate this word from my vocabulary. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Robin! I like what you are saying about negative self-talk using this word, "just." time to find some more reasonable substitutes for what we really intend. Something more positive and God-honoring.

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  7. You know Carrie, I never thought about it until you brought it to our attention
    I am guilty of saying it to my kids, if you could just do this,if you could just do that,if you could just be like this,if you could just be like that. Ugh,I didn't realize I was so condescending! I am changing that now! Thank you for bringing that to our attention!

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    1. Hi Deanne! I think teens hear this stuff all the time and no wonder they tune it out. We really can't know just how hard their worlds are. So to say, "just" to them, is disrespectful. Blessings!

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  8. Yes, I so agree. We get fooled into thinking if I can “just” finish this project, get that promotion, behave or have my children behave, things would be so much better. Or if that person would “just” do this or that, life would be so much better...
    That word does indeed minimalize and condescend. I will think before I speak that word again.

    mindyhoungATmsnDOTcom

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    1. Hi Mindy! Just can tyrannize by holding back enjoyment of today, while waiting for that special thing to happen! Good point! Blessings!

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  9. I never really gave it much thought until you brought it up. But you are correct, the word does imply something simple or easy. However, I am not a tech kind of person, so telling me to "just" do this or that on a computer is never easy. I also think the Nike slogan "just do it" is kind of strange/awkward. I hope you are out of your boot by now!
    perrianne (DOT)askew(AT)me(DOT)com
    Perrianne

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    1. Hi Perrianne! The first few times I had young people (usually tech types) telling me that "If you just..." it really put me on edge. Now, what I do, is I say, "Hmmm, if it were really JUST(emphasized not yelling) that easy I wouldn't be asking you." I am out of the latest boot for broken ankle and hoping to get good news from the orthopedic doctor tomorrow when he does X-rays again! Blessings!

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  10. Now I’m worried about all the times I may have inadvertently said this. If I could just be more self-aware!

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    1. I feel like when we start something off with "Just" we are kind of telling someone to leave us alone. We want them to do this thing and stop bugging us. Or for them to take an action that we feel they need to do which we don't want to help with. Hugs!

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  11. Very insightful...I haven't thought of how just one word can qualify a situation. How many times have people been told when trying to improve themselves has heard "If you'd just..." as you state in your post. Imagine how crushing that could be. Education, weight loss, study habits or anything where the expert expounds how to do something they seemingly conquered easily. Hm...a little compassion could be more helpful. Words can crush us one by one. Thanks for taking this on Carrie.

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    1. Hi Mardell! Just often fails to take into account the individual, the person's situation, and the reasons why "just" isn't working. When we're tempted to use this word we need to try to take into account that for this person, the thing may not be self-evident nor easy. Blessings!

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  12. Carrie, wonderful post and so true. I had heard something similar about the frequent use of the word "just" & the effects it can have years ago. I think "just" is one of those words that gets thrown around far too often & is so hurtful at times. I agree with Melissa's comment, "if you'll just lose weight"....if it was "just that easy", I would have long ago!!!!I
    Blessings,Tina

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    1. Hi Tina! Using "just" makes you sound like you know what you are talking about, I think that was the reason someone wrote a work article being rather pre-just usage. But it fails to take into account the other person.

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  13. "Just" is a word we have all heard. It will just take a moment. If you just do... Just be patient.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    1. All of those phrases imply condescension, Mary, on some level. I've gotten more sensitive to the overuse of this word during the times when I haven't been able to walk. Almost nothing is "just" when every step is a problem! Blessings!

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  14. Just has had me tormented these last couple of months with having my foot surgery done. Everyone (some good naturedly) says I’m just milking this for all it’s worth or can’t you just walk already but I can say it’s very irritating when you have a difficult time doing simple things. I’m now starting to walk little bits with physical therapy and also the chiropractor helping me . Very painful but it is nice to be able to carry my own plate with both hands because no more crutches. Praying for you Carrie and nothing is simple.
    jennydtipton at gmail dot com

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    1. Hi Jenny! That is so insensitive for someone to comment "can't you just walk already" when of course, someone who has had foot surgery would LOVE to be able to resume all normal tasks with ease again! Praying for you, too! Blessings!

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  15. I "just" never gave it a thought, seriously, I really haven't. I will be aware of this word more so, now that you pointed it out.
    Janet E.
    von1janet(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Haha Janet! That's good you haven't had reason to pay attention to this word!

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  16. I actually have always been annoyed with "just do..." saying, as you said when someone says it and it sounds like you should have figured it out already. POV is exactly right. I think we all forget we all have different talents or abilities. I love that you brought it to light! Great post. :)
    lattebooksAThotmailDOTcom

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    1. Hi Susan! Yes, it's like you're supposed to know this thing. And if you did, you'd not be asking! Thanks for sharing!

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    2. Hi Susan P! Congrats! You're the winner of my box of books giveaway this week on Overcoming with God blog! Blessings!

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  17. Great post, Carrie! I love your insight. We must be careful with our words.

    psalm103and138atgmaildotcom

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    1. Hi Caryl! We had hurricanes here every couple of years and it has slowed down some. I know you could relate to something saying, "Oh, it was JUST a Level 1 Hurricane" when, given a bunch of conditions, a Level 1 can cause as devastating results as a level 3. Hugs!

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  18. Thanks for the reminder, Carrie. It is so important that we practice the 'pause' before we speak. I have been the recipient of many of the same 'just' comments mentioned above. Now I need to be aware of what I am saying. It really is difficult to not use the word when speaking of the weather here in Minnesota.....lol
    bettimace at gmail dot com

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    1. Using that pause can also work when we return it after hearing "just" -- such as in a long pause before you say, "Let me make sure I understand you, if I would JUST do this thing, that I DON'T know how to do, then my problems would be taken care of." ACK!!! Hugs!

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  19. I agree that it is tough to hear it you would just.... It is usually said by someone who thinks whatever it is is easy to them. Not easy to me. My hubby was taught about tools and vehicles by his grandfather. Then he learned about appliance repair. He sometimes would get frustrated with me because I didn't know what he did. fishingjanATaolDOTcom

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    1. Yes, Jan, it seems the phrase "If you just" implies something is easy. This morning I was told a location was "Just two miles away." I told my son, "Just, huh? Two miles to someplace we have never been, in morning rush hour traffic, to a location that isn't even showing on my GPS or on iPhone mapping."

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  20. What about the hymn "Just a Closer Walk With Thee?"? That's a positive spin to the word just ;-)

    I've honestly never thought of the word "just" and how much it's used negatively in our world today. I will try to be more aware of it in my own speech as to not offend someone.

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Hi Trixi! I have never heard of this song being entitled with Just in it. I've only heard it as "A Closer Walk With Thee." I have a feeling it might be people of my generation who get offended. On the other hand, I remember being a teenager and the parental "Just..." being so annoying because the "just" didn't get it!

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    2. Hmmm...maybe it is entitled A Closer Walk with Thee, I've always heard it with "Just" in front of it. 😊 The chorus is this though (and I love it)

      "Just a closer walk with Thee,
      Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
      Daily walking close to Thee,
      Let it be, dear Lord, let it be. "

      Let that be our prayer daily!

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    3. You are correct, Trixi. It is titled Just a Closer Walk with Thee. I love this song so I looked it up in my hymnal. :-)

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  21. I don't have a problem with the word JUST. It makes me think of doing what is right or JUST, of being JUSTified, always something to do with 'law'.

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    1. The usage or misusage of the word as I indicated in my post is what I'm referring to, Anne, not to the context you give.

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  22. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Carrie. It's a great reminder to be thoughtful of our words, how they affect others, and the consequences of what we say. ~Alison Boss

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    1. Oops! I forgot to put my email: nj(dot)bossman(at)gmail(dot)com

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    2. So much of what we say is from our own perspective, of course, but when we're trying to help others we have to consider what we're saying to them and how it is perceived. Yesterday I had another "do this and just will happen" type of scenario again! And even after I said to the person that in all likelihood given the difficulty we just had with this technical issue that it wouldn't "just happen". Ack! Blessings!

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  23. I feel your pain. I am married to a highly techie person and he has always used this word. He has never meant it in a bad way, but sometimes it was taken that way, whether justified or not. Until our son got into high school and one day had a talk with my husband about it all. Needless to say my husband was flabbergasted. But he stopped using this word and using other words that were more "build you up words". what a difference this change has made in our relationship. I thank my son so much. He is such an insightful young man. And now he can share it with his wife of two years. Thank you for this great post.
    quilting dash lady at Comcast dot net

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    1. Hi Lori! Although some people think "if you just" or "just do" brings clarity, often it sends a condescending message. I was at lunch recently with someone who made one of those "if you just do this then" statements and I didn't say anything because most things in life are not that easy. And while technically something might be true, the doing of the thing may be too complicated to think you can dismiss all other considerations! Blessings!

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