February 20, 2013 – As a young student in a Catholic grade school, I knew I was in trouble when my teacher called me bold or brazen. It’s no wonder I grew up believing those words were negative and could only described bad people.
Fast forward several decades, and those words became a compliment in the workplace and often in life in general. “Her marketing plan is quite bold!” Or, “He was brazen and gutsy enough to act first, which earned us the account.” Our language is complicated, and the words we use to scold or praise – especially if they are similar – can be difficult to differentiate in young and sometimes no so young brains.
Think about what we say to our kids, for example. My friend told a story about observing her young son playing with a group of children several years ago. One of them said, “Who is smart, raise your hands.” Most of the children in the group raised their hands, except her son who exclaimed, “Nope. Not me. When I’m smart my dad smacks me.”
Taken literally, the phrases parents and authority figures use to scold children such as, “You’re too bold or brazen for your own good,” or “Don’t get smart,” actually describe the very nature of what children should be. Won’t they fare better in life if they are brave and intelligent, and if they take smart chances and think outside of the box?
A few years ago, my cousin told me that she liked getting older because now that she was over a certain age, she could act and do what she wanted and not have to worry about how people perceived her. In other words, with age she could become more brazen. I think about those words a lot, and I’ve noticed that even though I’m several years away from the age she deemed appropriate for such behavior, I’m bolder and more brazen that ever. That means I’m moving in the right direction although I’ll always worry whether I’ve hurt someone’s feelings or if I went too far (which probably will never happen). It’s just my nature. Yet, I’m proud of the strides I continue to make as I erase the negativity I once associated with those words, and nibble away at more each day.
As I progress, I think about Sister Francis Veronica who always called me a brazen article. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was absolutely right.