Sunday, October 11, 2009

Think about our everyday language - by Judge Jim Gray

We couldn't function in the everyday world without habits, which are basically actions taken without our conscious thought.

One example is walking. We thought about this act when we were toddlers, but almost all of us really can “walk and chew gum,” which frees our minds to do other things at the same time.

We also naturally fall into similar habits with our everyday language.

For example, one person when greeting another in today's world almost by rote says: “How are you?” to which the answer almost always is “fine.”

All of this is expected, and if the response were to be “Well, my gall bladder has really been acting up,” that response would be seen as weird.

Nevertheless, our language habits can frequently affect our perspectives, and even our attitudes about life.

So think about our normal responses, and if someone asks you how you are, tell them “Great!” If you are great, or wonderful, or terrific, and you probably are because almost all of us are truly blessed beyond belief, why not say so!

Just compare your life with all of those all around the world who have been on this planet before you. Among other things, this will help you to be more appreciative of your good health and opportunities, and will also help you to enjoy the comparatively great life you lead.

Furthermore, it will probably have a similar effect upon other people as well.

Over the years when I went to work at the courthouse after a nice weekend, I would often see some people in the elevator and ask them how they were doing, to which they would often say “Well, OK for a Monday.”

When that happened, almost unfailingly I would respond, “Well, you live one-seventh of your life on a Monday, so you might as well enjoy it.” I acknowledge that I received some strange looks on occasion, but I think it is important for us to focus on things like that.

There are other language habits we fall into.

For example, if someone gives you a compliment about some clothes you are wearing, many people get uncomfortable, and respond by saying things like “Oh, I have had this sweater for years,” or “It's not really that special.”

Nonsense! As long as the compliment is genuine, simply respond by saying “Thank you!” Any other response actually demeans the person who gave you the compliment, and lets a nice human opportunity go to waste.

And on that subject, we should be more open to giving compliments to others. Again, as long as they are genuine.

For example, whether you know the people or not, try telling parents at a restaurant what well behaved or attractive children they have. Or telling people what a nice smile they have, or saying things like “You look like a really nice person,” or even when someone you don’t know answers the telephone pleasantly, compliment them on the cheerful way in which it was done.

All of these comments don’t cost you anything, but they will bring a little happiness to people around you, and undoubtedly to yourself as well. It makes the world a better place for everybody.

Today's society has tended to make all of us lead less personal lives.

In the world of garage door openers, where we close out the world behind us without having to leave our cars, or where we are fearful that giving someone a hug, regardless of their gender or age, might get us ostracized, or even get us sued or prosecuted, we have too often stopped taking even small risks of having genuine human interaction for fear of giving offense.

In fact, while on the subject, it really is OK to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” instead of the general but politically correct “Happy Holidays.” Or if you are still concerned, try wishing people a “Happy Spirit of Christmas.”

Finally, many of us, particularly men, have fallen into the trap of failing to confide our hurts, fears and pains with even our best friends.

Remember, friends can't help us with our problems or adversities of life if they don’t know about them.

Obviously you will want to pick the time and pick the right friend. But good friends want to know, want to listen, and want to help.

In fact, this is true to the extent that they will likely hold it against you, or even question your friendship, if you don't confide in them about a serious problem.

Consequently, we should always bear in mind that we are on this planet for only a short time, and during that time we are not alone.

So open up, focus on your language habits and also upon your attitude in your everyday life, and then recognize and share more of your blessed life with others.

Why? Because your attitude about your life, and the way you think about it, will materially affect how your life is spent, and this in turn will also affect the lives of those around you.

Finally, one of Reach’s Rules is to “Give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you!”

If you want to find a creed by which to live your life, I suggest that this is the one.

All of us are truly blessed, and we should recognize it and share that fact openly at all opportunities with others. And this in turn will lead you to use the phrase that I use all the time, which is that “Life is Good!” Why do I use that phrase? Because it is true.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of Wearing the Robe – the Art and Responsibilities of Judging in Today's Courts (Square One Press, 2008), and can be contacted at or via his website at .

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