On Words: it is resilience, not suffering

Suffer: to experience or show the effects of something bad

Interestingly, every time society uses the verb “to suffer,”  in discussing a person’s situation or reality, does not mean humanity shows care or understanding. In fact, an extended definition of “to suffer” included in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines to suffer as, to be subject to disability or handicap.

Using “to suffer” as a way to describe a disability or handicap is shown to its absolute conclusion by how Iceland is close to eradicating down syndrome. That society, and they are not alone, considers DS to be a life effecting disability that keeps a person from living a meaningful life. They describe the DS person as someone without any worth, that they are drains on society, and live outside of the normal world. The unborn child is considered an “it,” a “thing,” a nonentity.  Something to be eradicated for the betterment of civilization.

We call that eugenics.

Remember the disabled were the first to be killed by the Nazis, for the exact same reasons the Icelanders, and many in our society, state that they push to abort unborn DS children. (It’s not that I am antichoice. But be honest about what you are choosing to do.)

However, even those with good intentions can get it wrong. One essayist who wrote, so others could see the humanity in DS persons, entitled his article by characterizing those with disabilities as “suffering.”*  Simply because a word has been used in one way over the years doesn’t mean that it might not need a reevaluation.

Moreover, taken to its final conclusion, by rethinking how we use the word to suffer in relation to disability and handicap, means we as a society can revamp how we approach those that are different. We all know that past use, knowledge, rituals, rules, or laws, is not a good excuse for not recognizing that change needs to occur.

People, even highly respected wordsmiths, need to think  through how words , even innocently employed, can be used to dehumanize.  

So I posted this on my Facebook page:

#autism #disability I really despise when even well meaning people refer to those with disabilities as “suffering” from so-and-so. When you talk about people and their disabilities the only thing they suffer from is other people’s ignorance. The neurodisabled person is learning to function within neurotypical society. That is not suffering. That is resilience.

*I tweeted out to the author that his title was inappropriate and why.


Everyone should really think about using words to always uplift, providing each individual with humanness and agency.

About Elise "Ronan"

#JewishandProud ...
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1 Response to On Words: it is resilience, not suffering

  1. Pingback: On Words: Marginalized | journaling on paper

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