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What’s In a Phrase?

By Renee Ruchotzke

oil pump jack

Lately I’ve been noticing how many common idioms use the language of extraction, exploitation, coercion or hierarchy:

  • Pipeline to Leadership
  • Drill a Little Deeper
  • Firehose of Information
  • Canary in the Coalmine
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Burn the Candle at Both Ends
  • Rank and File

Most – if not all – of our current social ills (war, the climate crisis, racism, immigration, economic inequality, for-profit healthcare, for-profit schools, mass incarceration) are a result of a worldview that looks at both people and planet as things to be used to profit those who have more power.

I’ve been encouraging myself to notice when I use these or similar terms and find a better phrase that is in alignment with our theological values of mutuality, creativity and interconnection.

  • Nurturing Future Leaders
  • Let’s Deepen our Understanding
  • Learn from One Another
  • Let’s check in on How We are All Doing
  • Shared Leadership
  • Take Time to Rest
  • Networks

You might remember this quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail”

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All ... are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

Using the values mutuality, creativity and interconnection as touchstones in our faith will help us “extract” ourselves from extraction/exploitation language and move us closer to the Beloved Community.

More on Theology for Leaders from LeaderLab.

About the Author

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on...

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