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Words (really do) Matter.

Last night I was doing some reading about Just War Theory for my ethics class.  The 4th rule (there are 8 of them total) says that in order for a war to be just, it must have a Just Intention (final cause, or future aim).

Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks the Pentagon code-named the U.S. war against terrorism “Infinite Justice.”  But, based on the rule of just intention, it was soon changed to “Enduring Freedom.”

Why?  Because infinite justice is impossible; infinity cannot be final.  It functions as a grandiose and ideological label.  One that, in this case, could have quickly unraveled into an endless fervor for war.  That fervor, in turn, becoming a kind of crusade, justifying any means necessary to ensure destruction of the enemy.  And then we would have found ourselves well outside the boundaries of just war.  Thankfully someone in charge had the gift of foresight.

Here is another example – from a discipline well outside my usual repertoire – of why words are important.  Words form a path diverged.  The words we use to label and describe the world really do matter: they inform our minds, hearts, and actions.

Several potential and concluding one-liners jump to mind… I’ll go with this one for today: if you want to change the way you think or feel about something, start by changing the way you talk about it.


About Samantha Curley

Hi! My name is Samantha Curley. I live in Pasadena, California where I run a non-profit organization called Level Ground (onlevelground.org). I like to ponder, ask questions, and share stories about life, art, and faith.


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