The Language of Privilege Vs. the Language of Duty

My dear husband greeted me this a.m., with a big smile. “Why are you so happy?” I asked.

John snow-blowing the driveway Dec 11

“I had such fun last night,” he said.

“Tell me about it.”

“Those prisoners were so grateful. They hung on every word. At one point, one of them raised his hand and asked ‘Will you say that, again, please?’ I couldn’t have asked for a more attentive audience.”

Earlier in the week, because the roads were icy and the weather prediction was ‘more ice,’ John had thought about canceling his trip to the correctional center; he had actually tried to cancel, but his message was not received. So when the time to depart arrived (and the prediction of ice was cancelled), he left—happy for the opportunity to encourage some prisoners who, like him, love Jesus.

While talking to a friend over the phone, he joked, “I get to go to prison tonight. Pray for me.” John often uses the phrases “I get to” rather than “I have to”.  It’s what Michael Hyatt labels as the language of privilege. In this blog  post, he explains how the words that we speak to ourselves affect our mood and our relationships.

In thinking about it, I realized that telling myself that “I have to do something” works against me. It makes me not want to do whatever that something is. When I say “I get to” I immediately feel different about whatever that something is. For example, when my husband asked me what I was going to do today, I said, “I have to write my blog; I didn’t do it last night.” That comment did not make me feel inspired to write anything. Procrastinating, I checked my email, found Michael Hyatt’s blog and read it. Then, I said to myself, “I get to write my blog.” I immediately felt different—lighter, as if a load was lifted. Words do make a difference. Why? Because what we feel is determined by what we think.

For me, the “have to” phrase represents living under law. That’s the way I lived my Christian life for many years. The “get to” phrase represents living under grace. Perhaps, this poem expresses more clearly what I mean by that.

I never could because of should,
But now I can accomplish good.
My should was really not a must;
It was confused with pride and lust.

My conscience told me I was wrong,
And it condemned me all day long.
When led by guilt, demands increase
But meeting them does not bring peace.

God’s Spirit, though, is very kind–
When speaking truth, so I don’t mind;
I am not offended by his voice.
I want to make a proper choice.

For God the Father let’s me see
How good his pathway is for me.
And as I choose to do his will,
It’s not a chore; it’s a thrill.

6 thoughts on “The Language of Privilege Vs. the Language of Duty

  1. From the time I was 19 until I was 69 I said I Gotta go to work truth is I wanted to go to work and I got to I didn’t have to. I am so thankful for all the years I was able to do something I loved doing. When I ran into a former employee we stood and talked for a while. It really hit me when he said “I want to be like you” it reminded me how important it is to share the love you have with others.

    • Thanks for this comment Marty. How blessed you were to be able to work for fifty years in a job which you loved doing, and also share your love with others.

  2. Oh thank you Jane for this wonderful reminder!
    One of my takeaways from exploring the Taoist religion is the spirit of mindfulness and thankfulness. In one excercise, I was instructed to think of how it was good that I have a sink full of dirty dishes. How does this situation arise? Because I have food, because I am graced with dishes on which to eat the food. I am even graced with a sink in which to wash the dishes, and hot water, and soap! I don’t need to wash my dishes in a river bed in India, or in cold mountain water in the Adirondacks. I don’t go hungry.
    I am so thankful for your reminder of this attitude of gratitude. I will use this today as I clean my house, for which I am blessed to have.

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