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Gentle Virtues

Redefining Ourselves

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08/01/2010 - Would you like some moist cake? You probably would not if you were living in the 15th century. Back then moist meant moldy?!

Over time some definitions have changed. Here are two more examples. According to Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, a harmonica didn't start out as a rectangular instrument but as "a collection of musical glasses of a particular form, so arranged as to produce exquisite sound". And the color blue, based on its Indo-European root word, "bhlewos", seemed to have meant "yellow"!

Not only words can be redefined, our character can be too. Just as a dictionary committee may fine-tune or even change a definition, we can fine-tune or even change what defines us.

Look with me at the word "define". Its Latin root word, "definis", means "to limit". To define something or someone, we use a limit of words. To give a clear definition, our limited words have precision.

Precisely what traits and actions define you? Do you like being defined by them? Or would you like to redefine yourself?

By the end of seventh grade, I was frustrated and longing to be redefined. Somewhere, somehow, I let others define me and I didn't like it. That's when I took out the "edger".

Bit by bit, I "trimmed away" harmful influences and quietly established a well-defined border of virtue. It wasn't without effort nor was it without awkwardness. Certainly it was not in vain.

It takes a determination to change. It won't happen by chance.

You may find this interesting. The root word for determination, "determino", means the same as the root word for define. Yes, it means to limit. One of the synonyms for determination is the word confine Can you guess what its Latin root word, "confinis", means? Yes, to limit.

We need limitations. If we are going to be the ones definining ourselves, we will need to limit our activities, influences and thoughts.

As we clearly define the boundaries that will clearly define us, we will discover the kind of confinement that is truly freeing. We too will find a person we really like.

Stay clear of anyone dressed in 15th century clothing who is offering "moist cake". Say "no, thank you!" and keep edging. I'll do the same.

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