Are kindness and political correctness the same?
Over the past decade, especially within the last two years, American people have been inundated with jargon, insisting that political correctness has ruined this country. Being a therapist, and a generally curious and well-rounded person, I'm intrigued by these beliefs. Has political correctness, a concept intended to breed tolerance, really "ruined" this country? If so, in what ways? If not, why are some people adamantly convinced that it has? My curious mind first takes me back to the beginning; what is political correctness?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines political correctness as "conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated." The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, "The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against."
This all sounds pretty reasonable, right? Why are so many people, then, offended by being asked to not offend others? Furthermore, why is the president-elect reinforcing the argument that political correctness is problematic, and should be eliminated?
My general sense of the above term was always calculated to some variety of kindness. Who could possibly have a valid argument against kindness? Upon further contemplation, I've decided that these two words have become synonymous with each other, but don't actually mean the same thing. If I'm going to investigate the definition of political correctness, it's only fair that I do the same for kindness. "The quality or state of being gentle and considerate" (Oxford English Dictionary, 2016) certainly sounds like the above definitions, but I'm noticing one small difference. The former is the fundamental avoidance of something, in this case - insult, while the latter, implies the presence of something - consideration.
My approach with clients, and with my own life, is greatly directed toward shifting focus toward presence over absence. I often tell clients, metaphorically, "If you want to go East, focus your attention on going East. You don't have to worry about 'not going West' if you just stay focused on your intended direction." In context, this means, we don't need to focus our attention and energy toward "not" hurting someone's feelings, as long as we remain intentional and consistent with being considerate and compassionate. It's often exhausting to avoid something. Not to mention, the brain still processes the thing you're avoiding. Try this exercise: