Miss America 2016 – While other contestants sang, danced or played instruments for the talent competition on the second night of preliminaries in Atlantic City, Kelley Johnson, Miss Colorado, delivered a unique monologue about her experience as a nurse. She spoke about how she referred to herself as “just a nurse” to one of her patients. In the end, it turns out she was much more than “just” a nurse to this dying man. She provided hope, love, and friendship to a man who was in deep suffering.
Thank you, Kelley, for your courage in shining a light on the affliction caused by the use of the word just. When we describe ourselves with the word “just” before our title (just a nurse, just a secretary, just a student) we take away from the dignity of the person God created us to be.
The Catechism eloquently states, “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.” (CCC 357)
Just is a word that has been repurposed by our culture to demean the words and actions following it.
The word just is derived from the word “justice” and used for such good definitions as “based on truth or fact” and “guided by reason and justice”, but is more commonly used today as meaning “only or merely”. n doing so, we have strayed far away from the truth that God wants us to carry in our hearts. We were made in His image and likeness. We are never just anything. We are a children of the living God and it is in that truth that our value is revealed.
Why has it become acceptable, even for Christians, to label and measure ourselves and others based on only one facet of our lives? One of the reasons just has gone as far as it has in our culture is false humility. In this generation of pride, we don’t understand true humility. CS Lewis states it simply, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”. Instead of giving the glory to God for our gifts and blessings, we make them seem less in an attempt to look humble in front of others. In an act of true humility, admit that you rely on God for all of your gifts and blessings, and allow His will to work in your life. This is not very easily done.
The phrase “I’m just a…” has become a weapon. A weapon that we have even learned to use on ourselves! It doesn’t matter what follows those words, they are meaningless behind that phrase. The word just makes the following word have little to no value. I’m just a mom, I’m just a teacher, I’m just a nurse. We are not JUST a single thing, nor are we completely what we do with our time. We are body, mind and soul, an image of the Holy Trinity. To define ourselves by the lowest common denominator is to forget our dignity as children of God.
I challenge you to JUST STOP using the word just! Reclaim your value in the Lord. Be a witness to the dignity of the human person – not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us.
So, the next time you are describing yourself confidently say, “I’m a Mom” or “I’m a Teacher” or “I’m a Nurse” and leave out the word just. Know that all those things are worthy in themselves, but continue to live out the dignity you have as a gift from the Father. You are not just something. You are someone and your purpose here is greater than you could ever dare to envision.
Questions for discussion:
1. Have you ever referred to yourself or someone else as “just” something? What are you telling others when you use the word just in that way?
2. What does it mean to say that we are made “in the image of God”? When we think lowly or speak poorly of ourselves, how does that reflect on the person God has made you to be?
3. There are several Saints who lived what the world may consider to be boring lives. Some never traveled, others lived in solitude and still others did what many consider menial tasks (washing the dishes, cooking, etc) for their entire lives. Yet, our Church recognizes there worth, value, and holiness. How does this challenge you to do all things well? How can you preform each task assigned to you in way that glorifies God? Do some research to find out the names of these great Saints. Learn from their example.