August 09, 2017

Horse 2305 - "Extra Grace Required": A Phrase Which Needs To Go

It doesn't matter what sort of field it is, be it the world of business, the medical world, highly technical fields, various fandoms, or even the sporting field, lots of idioms, pieces of slang, abbreviations and turns of phrase will be invented. Language isn't just the exchange of tokens of meaning which facilitate the flow of information but humans being social creatures, who have a need to be part of a group and to feel validated,  will also swap language which holds larger concepts and deeper meaning.
As a Christian, and someone who is fascinated with how language works, I am conscious that the interior language of this group can be baffling to outsiders. Organised Christianity has as much of a cant as the theatre, or technobabble of boffins and nerds, and has its own label "Christianese" which is used to describe it.
There is one phrase in particular that really rubs me the wrong way and gets my hackles, feckles and schmeckles up, and that is the phrase "Extra Grace Required".

It sounds harmless enough. The kind of person of whom it is said where Extra Grace is Required is someone who is difficult to deal with or is draining. I guess that the phrase is supposed to be a reminder that there are people who will require extra grace to deal with and that even though you might not like them, they are still worthy of respect and dignity. Of course there will be people who we don't get along with. Of course there are those who will almost always frustrate you. There are even those people whom it is best to take in as little dose as possible because they are just downright toxic; however that shouldn't excuse you from all politeness and calmness that you can muster and that is appropriate.
Used properly and correctly, this turn of phrase is cliched but useful. I don't mind that.

My objection to the phrase Extra Grace Required is when it used as a label before any grace is applied at all. My hackles, feckles and schmeckles are raised when it becomes a tool of the unkind. To label someone as Extra Grace Required and then immediately withdraw or never extend any grace whatsoever, is to use it as a piece of doublespeak. It becomes an iron fist clothed in a velvet glove. It is like installing a door of wallpaper while a hungry lion sits on the other side. It is like have a friendly pillow fight where one of the pillows has a brick concealed inside.
thI don't like direct insults and abuse, though for comedic effect a withering put down can be employed hilariously, but it really makes me cringe inside when I hear the words "Extra Grace Required" by someone who purports to be held to a kinder standard.

Now I make mention of this because I heard an instance of this phrase being thrown about with the caution that is shown to a rugby ball, by a lady on a morning train who was having too personal a conversation at too high a volume. My schmeckles were already raised; that raised my hackles and feckles as well. If you're going to broadcast all of your personal details to a captive audience who can not escape, then you should probably expect that some of them will be listening in (if not through choice).

I have no idea who the subject of the gossip was but I bet that they would feel really terrible knowing that they were having their character mauled while they weren't present. Maybe they were genuinely horrible but that only serves to prove the original intent of the phrase that Extra Grace would be Required to deal with them. Granted that there some people who are just plain awful but that's just a consequence of living in a complex world where people are sometimes selfish (and rationally so if you believe economists): even then you should make an effort to deal kindly and calmly with them if for no other reason than to make the relevant transaction happen. Labelling people has the power to objectify them and when that happens and they become objects, they cease to be people.

I must admit that I like cliches, quotes, idioms, turns of phrase, slang and jargon, because they help to add colour to the language. The flower of English as she is spoke, is a vulture of a language that steals from everywhere, including its own nest. When though, language is weaponised and becomes an instrument of attack, especially a phrase which should have the kindest and most noble of purpose, then count me out.
Extra Grace isn't Required - a new phrase is and actual genuine kindness is. Perhaps those of us who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not please just ourselves. Maybe it would be helpful to please our neighbors for their good, to build them up, and not label them.

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