Never Call Them Stupid

Leadership demands precise language

Imprecise language is the bane of group processes. Whether you are Donald Trump, Bill Maher, or the substitute teacher for the kindergarten Sunday school class, your audience deserves a better word choice.  Unless you are referring to a recent blow on the head, as in to be knocked stupid, the word “stupid” is always a poor choice. Not only is it inflammatory, it distracts us from the choice we must make whenever we talk about motive. I write novels and none of my characters are stupid. Whenever they make a bad decision or commit a felony, the proper word for what they are doing is either incompetence or malevolence. I still do not know if Donald Trump believes that the US Congress is entirely composed of people lacking intelligence (which could easily be disproved by checking their school records), or if some conspiracy is afoot, giving them selfish motives to pass legislation that hurts our country. If neither is the case, then those want a job in politics should seek to impress us with their personal integrity and their track record for brokering win-win compromises.


Whenever we engage in public speaking, especially when it is in the church, we should chose our words carefully. If something needs changed, we must illuminate the issue without shaming another person or group. If we suspect incompetence, we need to focus on leadership training and the placement of people in positions that utilize their spiritual gifts. The nominating committee needs to be taught spiritual discernment. If we suspect malevolence, what we say should clearly indicate which of the seven deadly sins are at play. Our audience always deserves something better than to be called stupid.