Mark Southard

The unjust power of just

In my most recent post, I wrote about showing up every day. It’s simple, just show up every day. In thinking about that statement, I began to reflect upon how much power the word just has. In my opinion, the word just has way too much power—an unjust amount of power. Let me explain with an example.

My wife is a runner; running between 15 and 25 miles a week. When she gets back from a run, I’ll ask her how far she ran. She’ll typically respond with something like, “Oh, just six miles”. For her, six miles isn’t bad. Her “running threshold” is around eight miles. Anything under eight and she’ll say, “Oh, just so-and-so miles”. As a newly minted runner (thanks to COVID closures), I struggled to run two miles. When she’d say, “Oh, just six miles”, it grated on my nerves. The inclusion of just in that statement devalues the power of the accomplishment. It made me feel like I should be able to easily run a distance that was three times what I could. It compounded my struggles. I told my wife how I was feeling, and she’s since stopped saying just when informing me of her run distances. She’s also been even more encouraging of my running accomplishments. Not only is she recognizing all of the hard work that I’m putting in, but she is recognizing also all of the hard work (and struggles) that has gone into getting her to where she is as a runner.

Ultimately, I think we’d all be better off removing the usage of just from our vernacular when referencing the completion of an activity. When you find yourself saying just, I hope you’ll reflect on what you’re truly saying. Are you diminishing the amount of effort that goes into accomplishing a task? Are you recognizing all of your own hard work that has you in a position where the usage of just feels right? Are you cognizant of the advantages and privileges that you have over others?

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