There’s a lot of drama of late about the political correctness of wishing someone a Merry Christmas. Although the goal of political correctness is to help people be less offensive, it seems to have created the opposite effect. It sort of defeats the purpose to post something like, I’m wishing you a Merry Christmas, damn it! And you can’t stop me! That’s not very merry at all.
I have mixed feelings about political correctness. My main problem is that any rule about what you should not say becomes a source of anxiety for me. I’m so terrified of saying the wrong thing that I err on the side of not saying anything at all. Which can also be construed as offensive.
Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether it should be our goal to avoid offending other people. While that has always been my goal, I’m not sure it’s always a healthy one–in part because it’s impossible to achieve.
In my relationships, one of my biggest problems was that I tried to get the other person to say things that I thought would make me feel better about myself. But even when they said them, they didn’t actually make me feel better about myself. Because in reality, if you don’t feel good about yourself, it doesn’t really matter what anyone says to you.
Now I preach the importance of controlling what you can control. I tell clients that you can’t control what other people say or do; you can only control your own behavior. You can stand up for yourself, or leave the room, or end the relationship, but you can’t force the other person to be respectful. And I’m trying to practice what I preach, too, which is why I’m single.
Wouldn’t the same logic apply to political correctness? I mean, if someone thinks less of me because I am a woman or because I’m Asian or because I struggle with depression, it doesn’t make a difference to me if they call me a woman instead of girl. Or Asian American instead of Oriental. Or a person with depression instead of a crazy person. I would still know their judging me.
I do my best to practice accepting everything that makes me who I am, but I don’t expect other people to do the same. But if they don’t, I try not to waste my time on them any more.
Plus, there are lots of things that people say that offend me that are not covered under political correctness. Like talking about politics, in general. In fact, I think the world would be a better place if unsolicited comments about politics were considered politically incorrect.
The holidays are supposed to be about spreading good cheer, generosity of spirit, and peace on earth. OK, maybe peace on earth is a stretch, but we are certainly capable of the other two. So rather than focusing on what we shouldn’t say, perhaps we can focus on communicating these sentiments genuinely, and hope that the other person will receive our well wishes as the gift that they are intended to be.