The “The” Word


DNA ancestry kits are producing some interesting results. People are finding out “I didn’t know it, but I’ve got some of that in me!” I especially enjoy seeing people becoming excited enough to research and find out about a part of their ancestry of which they may not have been aware until recently. Hopefully, they develop a newfound pride in this part of them they’ve discovered exists.

What we’re learning is that no one is as pure anything as they might have believed. If only we could translate that awareness into our attitudes toward others when it comes to using the word “the.”

You know what I’m talking about: it’s all around us. Far too many people use the word “the” to lump individuals into groups, making it easier to judge, hate, and dismiss them. “The gays”. “The Latinos”. “The liberal media”. “The blacks”. “The liberals”. “The conservatives”. “The democrats”. “The republicans.” We could go on and on.

I’ve heard people talk about “the gay agenda”. There is no such thing. Do you think all gay people agree on all points of their politics, religion, or priorities? Do you think there’s some mass mailing to all LGBT+ people that gives the directive “here’s what we’re all going to do this month”? Do all republicans or democrats or whites or Baptists or Catholics agree on all things such that it might be said they all share the same agenda? Not in my experience. Even in narrowly defined sub-groups, the bell curve rules.

We make it easier on ourselves when we draw such assumptive conclusions, but we don’t make ourselves smarter. We also rob ourselves of one of the most fascinating and wonderful discoveries in life – that every person is unique. Each one has differing hurts, scars, opinions, needs, gifts, strengths, and potentialities.

It’s an easy shift – and helpful, I think – to exchange the word “the” for “some” when describing groups that may share some dominant tendencies or oft-held opinions. Even using the word “most” – if accurate – is so much better than employing the lazy and prejudicial “the”.

Think you could make the “the” shift? I’m going to try.

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Dr. Kevin Tully is pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Waxahachie, Texas.

2 thoughts on “The “The” Word”

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