This is another phrase that can be heard coming from all sides of the conversation. I personally heard it a lot at the Western District Conference assembly.
Problematic phrase #4: It’s not personal.
The bottom line is that this phrase is problematic because it is simply not true. For more detailed reflections, see the blog entry posted at the Huffington Post.
Suggested replacement phrase: “It is not my intent to harm you in any way.”
And just in case you missed them, you can click over to read about What Not to Say #1 &2, and #3.
6 thoughts on “What Not to Say: #4”
Wow, thanks for this post. I like all four of your posts on what not to say in discussions of LGBT issues in the church. This one–it’s not personal–is particularly meaningful to me in another context. Being a neophyte in ecumenical discussions I have been taken aback by some statements made about Protestants. And the assurance that “it’s not personal” did not really help at all. Of course it’s personal. Thanks for understanding and articulating that!
I love your Huff post piece, and I am even more convinced of the problems with ‘it’s not personal’ after reading it, but I worry about your replacement suggestion.
Can you imagine saying “It’s not my intent to harm you” while taking away someone’s ordination, or firing them from a position? And I think I have to admit that to the extent that people see their interests harmed by lgbt people joining the Mennonite denomination, it is my intent to harm them, at least indirectly. I’m not sure what a better replacement would be-nothing quite leaps to mind (which is why we keep using the it’s not personal line), but I wonder about something more straightforward-“its because disagree about something we both think is important.” or something like that. Other people have ideas?
I agree that we could use a better replacement phrase. I was trying to get at what people meant when they told me it wasn’t personal. Any ideas?
Perhaps a positive statement might work. Rather than “it’s not my intent to…”, could we say something like “I’m trying to act faithfully”.
Of course, it’s already a positive step just to get people thinking about choice of words. That means that they’ve already come to a place where conversation can happen, even if the words don’t come out right. We’re no longer talking past each other at that point.
So true. It’s not that we have to have the perfect words (thank goodness), but that we need to be mindful of the words we use–and to truly listen to others as well.
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