Words are tools. Like all tools, when used correctly they are extremely useful. When used incorrectly, they can inadvertently cause considerable damage.
Why am I starting with this? Because I want to talk about the word Awesome and, more specifically, what it means to be awesome.
Earlier today I sent a text to my son. He had not been having a great morning, and going to school for him has been difficult, even on the best days. I wanted to insert a small moment of hope and happiness into his day. As part of the text, I told him “I hope you have an awesome day” It took a while for him to respond, and when he did, I gave him an additional note of “You are awesome.”
As I contemplated the exchange, and the lack of communication back to me (typical of teenagers in high school, on lots of levels) I wondered if he and I see the term in the same light?
Awesome is defined by the online dictionary as “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear,” and “Informally, extremely good; excellent.” I think my son and, coincidentally, much of the population at large use the term in its informal sense. We use awesome to describe things that are extremely good. They aren’t singular, they are extremely good. They aren’t earth shattering, they are excellent. In fact, based on popular usage, they might be just extremely good in the moment. It is not unusual to hear that a band or a performer has an awesome video or that they did an awesome job on a particular song, or even a part of a song. It is not unusual to hear someone say that a meal is awesome, even if it is just a burger or a chicken sandwich.
Because of the frequent use of the term awesome we may, as one of my friends recently put it, diluted to impact and meaning of the word.
This may all be true, and may also help to inform my sons silence when I sent him a text saying he was awesome.
But I believe he is.
I believe that his capacity for growth is “inspiring of admiration.” He is “excellent” at whatever he puts his mind to. He overcomes things that, perhaps, may be considered to be “daunting.” He approaches things that sometimes make him “fearful or apprehensive” and he meets them head on, making progress toward handling those situations.
Doing all of that makes him awesome.
I believe that part of being a man of style and substance is using words thoughtfully. I am not encouraging the use of the word awesome in place of all the other words or phrases that can be used. I am not saying that the only adjective that we should employ in our conversation is awesome.
I am suggesting that being thoughtful about the word awesome may come in one of two ways.
First, we may choose to adopt the informal use of the word as a focused word of encouragement.
Second, we may choose to use the word more judiciously, saving it for a moment of significant effort and progress.
However, in either case, I am trying to remember that the word awesome can be used to describe the inner progress that one is making or is striving to make as much as it may be more frequently used to describe the outer results that occur.
Going back to the conversation that I was having with my son. He is struggling. But he is awesome!
Every day he faces a highly competitive, results driven situation, the likes of which can feel exceptionally daunting . Like many, he is struggling to keep moving forward in spite of apprehension and fear that is somewhat inextricably connected to living in a fast paced community with constantly changing guidelines and expectations. And in spite of all of this, he is really good at finding humor all around us, at finding things to laugh at all the time.
That makes him awesome.
I hope I can be awesome like him.