Banning the W-word


I am now old enough to remember several words that were used during regular dinnertime conversations that would never be used by educated people in a discussion today. Many words have been ‘banned” and as a society we have agreed that because of the pain inflicted by certain words they are no longer acceptable in either written or spoken forms.  I hope that someday there will be other words added to this list of hurtful and unnecessary words. Words that we will no longer let glibly roll off our tongues without first giving thought to what we are saying. One word that I would like to see banished to the garbage can of history is what I call the W-word, the word “Worthy” and along with it, its twin sister, “Unworthy.”

The single greatest regret of my life, the one for which I will never be able to make amends, is leaving my Dad sitting on a couch in the foyer on my wedding day, along with my sweet, Nana. At my father’s funeral my aunt told me that the greatest heartbreak of his life was never seeing any of his daughters married.  Long ago, back when racial epitaphs were still being used on a regular basis, I, too, succumbed to the idea that an arbitrary set of rules could determines if someone was “worthy” or “unworthy.” During a time of immaturity, I overlooked the fact that my father had raised me, cared for me, supported me, sat by me when sick, taught me to drive, moved me into college, hiked with me, fished with me, dreamed with me and loved me enough to travel and sit outside on my wedding day; but was not deemed “worthy” to see me married. Worthy-what a painful word.

When we use the N-word we make a person less-than for the color of their skin, when we use the R-word someone is made to feel less than for the level of their intelligence and when we use the W-word someone is made to feel less than because of capricious standards of right-ness.  Would we ever use the word “unworthy” in connection with a cousin who smokes an occasional joint, but then picks up a homeless teenager on the street and takes him home to give him a roof over his head? Does anyone have a right to judge as worthy or unworthy the gay man who has devoted his life to being a cancer nurse, lovingly caring for men in the last days of their lives? And what of the worthiness of a young, single mother who has given birth and now cares for her young child during the day while working the night shift?

Most regrettably, is the use of the W-word, by those who stand in self-judgment; never quite feeling that they are enough in the sight of God, never feeling they can live up to some unattainable standard of morality. What a cruel and painful word for any young man or young woman to inflict upon themselves as they struggle towards maturity.  What a burdensome word for any father or mother to allow in a family conversation. In our human experience, we all make mistakes and have regrets, we struggle and triumphant and learn and grown…no one is immune to the turbulence of life—young and old alike. Ironically, it is these very experiences that make us worthy (in the middle English sense of the word): honorable, admirable, deserving.

As members of “the family of man,” no one should be left standing outside of the circle. And as we partake, serve, stand, bless, enter and especially marry, the words we should use are those that must never be banned—I am Joyful. I am Blessed.  I am Grateful. I am Loved. I am Striving. I am Human. Scan






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4 Responses to Banning the W-word

  1. Chelsea says:

    Amen!!!! Beautiful and perfectly phrased on all levels!! This has been on my mind lately!!! You are so talented in how you are able to express yourself 🙂

  2. Cathy G. says:

    Regret is such an interesting thing! When something happens that you regret immediately, or within a short period of time, there is usually some ability to make amends. You can apologize and try to make things right, there may be some lingering hurt, but you are usually able to clear the air and do your best to communicate and make things right. Regret that comes after or over a long period of time is more difficult. Often we have made the best decision we could based on our current belief system and the information available to us at the time. When years pass and we review past decisions, we may think we were wrong. We now have new experiences and information and belief systems that may make us think we would make a different decision. And maybe today we would, but that is not what we knew in the past. It is impossible to reconcile anything with Dad because he is not here. I do know he used to say he wouldn’t change anything he had done because changing one thing might have altered something else that had brought him great joy. I also chose to get married without Dad present. Never at any point in that decision was the question “is he worthy” involved. I chose who, when and where to marry based on my belief of what the best foundation would be for my marriage and what would make me happy. Selfish? Probably. Intending to cause pain to anyone? Never. At 19, was I even aware of the pain it caused my dad? Not at all. Now, 30 years later, having children of my own, would I choose differently? Probably not, but I hope I would be more sensitive and consider all the possibilities and hopefully have more discussion with him. As our children have married, they chose who, when and where and we said ok! Was there a chance a parent would have to miss out, yes! We faced the possibility ourselves and we have watched our children make similar choices. But never once did we make a list of who was “worthy” to attend a wedding. We had number constraints, but every couple has those, based on room size, finances etc. We make our wedding lists and we invite guests. I have never been asked to determine who is “worthy” to attend. We send invitations and the guests decide if they will attend or not. I am still trying to become like Andy and not see any differences in people, just love them because they are there. Unfortunately, I still make decisions that pass judgements and affect choices I make every day, but I hope I never label anyone as “worthy” or “unworthy” of my love, my care, my prayers or concern within my own family or those I meet each day.

  3. colleendown says:

    Thanks for replying Cathy–no one knows better than me how hard it is to type something you feel strongly about and then push send–it takes a great deal of courage–and Allka Seltzer. The conversation is what is always the most important in issues like these. Fortunately, this is a conversation that is taking place in so many places. The Arizona Republic did a big piece on the wedding issue last year featuring two families, it was fair and offered two different perspectives. There has been a petition going on for quite a while asking the LDS church to change its policy on non-member parents. I added my name to it many years ago with my story. I used this as an example but the main message I still hope to convey is that young people (and old people) should not be burdened with the “worthy” label. I still think it is based on “arbitrary” standards depending on your culture–it is a carry over from our Puritan past–that is best left there-in the past. I have often thought about Dad’s quote that he would not change anything–it used to irritate me when he said that-not so much anymore as I see the wisdom in it. On the other hand, I hope that I can pass a few of the things I have learned, from mistakes I have made, on to my children. Of course, they will make new ones of their own and the circle of life continues. What is always important is that they “question everything,” discuss everything, and keep trying to make the best decisions in an ever changing world–it this hadn’t already happened with this generation, someone in the family might still be using the N-word!

    And please, anyone is always welcome here with their thoughts and opinions. It would have to be pretty bad for me to unapprove a comment!

  4. kathy says:

    I just read your W word piece for the 3rd time. Thank you for your insite and for telling your story. Your words shed thankfully more light on the strange world of drawing circles and keeping people in or out based on sexual “purity”, what you drink or smoke, and how much you pay into it’s organization’s coffers… oh ya and if you are honest with your fellow human. The worthiness to be inside theat circle has nothing to do with your relationship with Jesus Christ. The whole questioning process that determines your worthiness excludes that very important element …think about it…never once was I asked about my relationship with Him or about what it is I do in my life that makes me more worthy of HIS presence. Any way just thinking of worthiness and not being worthy…you always get me thinking.

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