When No Proper Word Will Do


The F-Bomb … and Other Heresies

My life is lived in conflicting spaces. On the one hand, I am a professional facilitator, consultant, speaker and coach with a full complement of approaches, language, and attire. On the other, as a social worker by heart and sometimes by practice, I am often in settings with people that are torn and troubled, which in all honesty often requires an entirely unprofessional touch. And in yet one more environment, the recovering world, I am constantly amid people who are just plain real, and who say it like it is without adornment and with a full command of every curse word ever created.

I am also a member in good standing of Toastmasters International where I hold a distinguished designation as one of only sixty-nine Accredited Speakers worldwide in more than thirty-five years. And in that esteemed organization, which strives to support people in learning to overcome their fears and develop skills for public speaking, there is a large premium placed on propriety. In short, the ethic is that we need to sound and look impeccable, above reproach.

I’ll never forget the day when my own inner wires got crossed and I F-bombed a professional audience. It got very quiet. I blushed and stammered for just a moment. Then I laughed and said simply, “Wrong audience.” They laughed with me. I learned later that a few were offended, but a much larger number appreciated that I was utterly human. For me it was proof of the humanity in me, as well as in my audience.

Recently my daughter, Natalie Gallagher, delivered a presentation proposing that the use of the F-bomb and other so called “blue words” is essential if we are to treat others authentically. She says sometimes there is no other word that will carry the message than one that is inherently risky. That in order to relate, or make an essential point, or shake a complacent listener, or compel action, we must be willing to step outside propriety, to expose ourselves. To push. Because in some cases, the ends really do justify the means.

Of course, the challenge is always in confronting our fears, isn’t it? Fear that we’ll offend someone, or lose their approval, or fall in the esteem of others. Or in some cases, we fear we will be punished for stepping outside the bounds.

Tom Peters, the much renowned leadership and organizational expert, said if we have not been fired from something as a result of pushing the limits, we are not being sufficiently accountable for ourselves, our lives, or our world. My friend Lydia Ashanin would quote her favorite bumper sticker, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” My own mentor, affectionately known as Master Samwise, began telling me years ago that if I could not overcome the need for the approval of others, I would be unable to fulfill my potential. Even Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged that his commitment to the truth would necessarily force him outside the bounds of conventionality. In my practice, I have seen that nothing of significance ever emerges within our comfort zones.

So there is strong indication that where our language and actions are concerned, sometimes it is necessary to push the limits and cross boundaries. In order to do so, we’ll need the courage of our convictions. We’ll also need to be willing and able to roll with what may come. Sometimes, the ends really do justify the means.

Seeing True™

In contemplating the power and effectiveness of forgiveness, it is clear we need to reawaken to it. While not one of us is likely to disagree with the idea of forgiving, many of us live with brokenness because we have been unwilling or unable to forgive others or ourselves.

Seeing True™ in Action

Let’s shake it up and see what happens!

Forgiveness is my second favorite F-word!

Where does that take you in your practice?

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