Home » Blog » The Language of Privilege – Part 1

The Language of Privilege – Part 1

Priscilla | May 20, 2015

I have to do a lot of things. Just like you do. 


There are groceries to buy, errands to run, closets to clean, floors to vacuum, a body to exercise, vitamins to take. The list – mine and yours – goes on and on. Most of the time our description of the day ahead sounds like a compilation of duties and demands akin to a never ending laundry list of mundane have-tos. It drips with the sound of bleak obligation. Burden.

I began to think about how I respond whenever I’m asked by a friend “What do you have to do this week?” What did the tone of my response say about the way I really felt about the activities on my to-do list.

Language matters.

Our word choice and tone not only make an impact on those around us but also help to shape our perspective about our own lives. This is the principle that Michael Hyatt shared in one of his many insightful blog posts recently. I follow this guy’s life transformative quotes and articles religiously. They open my eyes in a fresh way to simple principles that adjust and reframe my perspective. And this post was certainly one of them.

There is a difference between having to do something and getting to do it. That’s what Mr. Hyatt says. One conveys an air of duty and obligation, drudgery even, while the other accentuates the privilege of the task. Saying I have to implies that you wish you didn’t. And when others hear us describe our life’s tasks in this way, it’s what they think we mean. They feel the need to pity us, pat us on the back like wet kittens who need to be taken in and cared for. We become victims, abused by our lists of responsibilities.

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An even more eye opening fact is this: when we hear ourselves speak in this way, our perspective gets lost in a tunnel of ingratitude and we begin to victimize ourselves instead of recognizing the beauty of the life we’ve been given.

I’ve been a have to girl. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I did realize it. But somehow I didn’t quite recognize the detriment of this trait. It took Hyatt’s post to shine a spotlight on it. And I’m grateful because its about to change. The fact is that my life – and the things in it – is a privilege.

And so is yours.

  • I get to exercise because I am privileged to have a body that works.
  • I get to grocery shop because I have a family to feed and because I’m fortunate enough to live in a country where food is readily available.
  • I get to pack my bags and head out of town because God has given me the joy of ministering to people who live in other cultures.
  • I get to clean out the coffee maker because coffee exists and I get to have a cup of it whenever I please (Hallelujah).
  • I get to write this post because you are here and it is an honor to serve you.

Do you see how changing these tiny one-syllable words reorients everything?

Why don’t we try this together? Let’s follow Mr. Hyatt’s advice and be get to girls. The next time you are asked what you’re doing in the coming hours or days or weeks, describe everything in a way that reflects how blessed you really are. Even if you honestly don’t want to do those things, because you are tired or bored or underwhelmed or unbelievable overwhelmed, see if altering your language by speaking the language of privilege alters your perspective as well.

Keep me posted on what you discover and I’ll do the same.