I always knew I used “um” and “like” as filler words in my conversations-- my mom is quick to point it out in an effort to curb the bad habit I acquired somewhere around middle school. I’ve realized recently that another word has become common in my conversation: just.
I hear it everywhere-- using this little word as a way to try to brush things off like they’re really no big deal, or like they don’t matter, or like we don’t want to truly own the words that follow.
“I’m just a writer.”
“Oh, I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
“I’m just doing it for fun.”
Kimberly Girard, in her article “When Just is a Four-Letter Word,” tells a striking story about this little word. A man was wearing a marathon shirt and was asked if he’d run in it. He responded, “Just the half.” He was immediately met with a shocked response-- “You ran 13 miles! I ain’t running no 13 miles! Don’t say ‘just the half!’ That’s 13 miles you ran!”
When I hear that story, I realize how often I try to shrink myself down or minimize what I’m saying by including the word “just” in my vocabulary. I would have said the same thing to that half-marathon runner-- what an awesome accomplishment! Be proud of that! But then, I know I would have responded in the same manner.
Why do we do this? Why do we try to brush off our work, our accomplishments, our lives like it isn’t significant or worthy?
Girard says the notion of “saving face by defacing myself” is a big factor at play here.
“For me, “just” becomes an apology for my life, an apology and a recognition of all I am not—the ways I’m not enough, don’t measure up, and don’t compare to the full people. I’m just half. I’m just, I’m just, I’m just. It never stops. “Just” is my way of cutting my listener off at the pass. Before she can tell me I’m not enough, I tell her I know I’m not enough. I save face by defacing myself.”
I can understand that. There’s a voice within me that whispers “you’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, qualified enough, pretty enough…” and when I say “I’m just…” it’s a sign of that voice winning. That voice isn’t the voice of truth, though.
“The truth is that I’m exactly who God made me to be—and you are exactly who God made you to be. There’s no room for ‘just,’” Girard says.
There are definitely many scenarios and situations where I fall short, I don’t quite measure up, or I mess up. Trying to skim over those doesn’t help me grow in my life or faith, though.
“I’m learning that, when I apologize for who I am, for taking up space, I’m not giving God any glory. I’m putting focus back on me and my shortcomings, which might be the very weaknesses through which he has planned to show his strength. What would it look like for us to accept, and maybe even embrace, our limitations as beautiful because in them we see God’s beauty and power?”
I once had a conversation in a coffee shop with a dear friend where I went on and on about the things that were frustrating me about my life and myself. I guarantee I said “just” a hundred times in that conversation. I was discouraged and felt very aware of all of my shortcomings and mistakes.
She reminded me in that conversation about a passage I often forget about-- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
In our weaknesses, in the very things we so often want to brush off or minimize or make excuses for, we are strong. God gives us abundant grace to cover all our shortcomings and make His power perfect in us through them.
“In the vocabulary of a Christ follower, “just” doesn’t describe me but does describe a just God, who is righteous and lawful,” Girard says. “In his justice, our sins could not be forgiven without sacrifice, the blood of the Lamb. By the Lamb’s wounds we are healed (Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus made us right, before a just and holy God, and heirs to a full and glorious kingdom. May you and I, as God’s children, believe that we are whole, not half, because our lives are hidden in Jesus, who is whole and who stood in our stead so that we don’t have to be enough. He is.”
May we boast gladly in our weaknesses, trusting that in them, He makes us strong because He is enough.
Publication date: December 17, 2015
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com