a.maz.ing/adjective/causing great surprise or wonder; astounding.
Sadly, I no longer like this word. I really like the idea of it; something that challenges my ability to describe it, shockingly exceeds my expectations, and strikes me with awe and wonder, momentarily quieting my mind of everything else.
But unfortunately I live in a world where amazing has become everyday.
That girl’s new hair cut is amazing.
We got a new shower head and, let me tell you, it’s amazing.
Have you tried the new Vanilla Dr. Pepper Freeze at Taco Bell? It’s amazing.
Really? Is it?
Different and enjoyable? Probably.
Delicious? It’s debatable.
Over the course of the last decade or so, things that truly deserve the label of amazing, like the sound of a baby’s heartbeat on an ultrasound, an Olympic athlete breaking a world record, or walking away from a car accident where emergency responders never would have expected a survival . . .
things that are truly worthy of awe . . .
. . . are now lumped in with the scent of a new body lotion and lipstick that really stays on through a meal.
I am just as guilty, maybe not with this particular word, but others. It is really nothing new for a word to take on a cultural slang that is other than its classic Webster definition.
What’s sad about this is that its overuse has diluted its meaning so severely that amazing things no longer cause me to be amazed. When someone wants to tell about something amazing, I do not stop what I am doing, with bated breath, expecting to be told about or shown something spectacular and worthy of my time and attention.
I know what we mean. We mean it’s really good, it’s something memorable; that we’ll probably tell our friends about it should the subject come up in conversation.
Amazing, while it’s a top offender, is not what is causing me the most concern. What’s bothering me the most is that I Love You has become the new Amazing.
Please America, of all the words and phrases in the English language, why did we have to choose to overuse, dilute the meaning of, and effectively neuter this one? And I find it is at its most disturbing among our tweens, teens, and young adults. They say I Love You far too often, to far too many people.
As they get off the phone: I Love You. To a friend they have known for a few months: I Love You. To someone they carpooled to camp with: I Love You. Or to the boy they have gone on three “dates” with: I Love You.
And it’s being spoon fed to them. The other night, on a popular dance competition show, a group of dancers had a close call after the group performance round. After barely escaping elimination, they all clung to one another, people who were strangers forty-eight hours ago and who they likely will never see again, and joined in a rousing chorus of I Love You’s.
We know what they meant . . .
I experienced something important with you.
Thank you for standing by me.
I will remember this moment.
But I can say with a fair measure of confidence, even as a casual observer, none of them meant I LOVE YOU.
The phrase comes fast and easy these days. And each time it is uttered, in the place of something less significant and powerful, its meaning dilutes, growing thinner and weaker, until the day that they look into the eyes of their new fiancé, or the sibling they have reconciled with, or the sickbed of a parent, and they reach for something to convey their depth of feeling and commitment, and there’s nothing left.
It makes me long for the diversity of the original Greek language, when they took this into account, and used four distinctly different words to more accurately describe four different kinds of love.
Storge: a natural affection, like that is felt between parent and offspring, and within the family.
Philia: a “mental” love, affectionate regard typical of friendship.
Eros: a “physical” passionate love, with sensual desire and longing, including romance.
Agape: a “spiritual” selfless love, giving without expecting anything in return.
I include this to demonstrate what I wish our teens and young adults knew. Because we don’t have these variations to clarify the types of love in our own language, we need to honor and respect the highest phrase we do have.
What we do have is a wide variety of other phrases that can convey the desired message, while still reserving I Love You for those moments when we are truly ready to use it.
When we know that we mean the words we have chosen.
When we are ready to stand behind those words with actions.
So parents, let’s rescue I Love You! Let’s introduce and suggest other phrases that can take the place of the golden one.
Phrases like . . .
I really like you.
I am thankful for you.
I am so glad you are in my life.
I care about you and what happens to you.
Use these like the $5 phrases they are. They can be used daily, and to a wide variety of people, and require nowhere near as much forethought.
They are not a promise.
Then, when that day does come, when our kids are ready to acknowledge a new and deep level of affection, one that carries with it an intent to stay beside, to care for beyond feelings and with action, to sacrifice for, and to offer themselves in relationship in a long-term way, they can reach for I Love You, and it will be there, shiny and untainted, heavy with meaning and showing great honor to the one it waited for.