January 19, 2014

Antonyms ~ I Stumbled Upon This Message Written by Stan That I Would Very Much Like To Share With You! Yes We Need To Genuinely Care For One Another.

Winging It Blog
A hungry blind man offering other hungry blind men thoughts on life
written by Stan
Wednesday, July 02, 2008

In the English language we have lots of "nyms". We have synonyms, words that mean the same, and antonyms, words that mean the opposite. We have homonyms, words that are spelled or pronounced the same but have different meanings (like "two", "too", and "to"), and heteronyms, words that are spelled the same but with different pronunciation (like "invalid" as in not valid or "invalid" like someone who is incapacitated). Did you know that there are even oronyms (otherwise known as homophones, word groupings that sound alike such as "some others" and "some mothers") and capitonyms (words whose meaning change when they are capitalized, such as "polish" and "Polish")? Yes, English is a tough language.

I was struck lately with the concept of antonyms. Given a particular word, can you provide a word that means the opposite? Frankly it can be a bit too easy at times since the standard thesaurus often provides antonyms, but sometimes I don't think it's as easy as you might think. Take, for instance, the word "partial"? Is the antonym "complete" or "unbiased"? Or how about "plain"? Would it be "valley" or "mountain" or, perhaps, "lavish" or "complicated"? You see, there can be difficulties with this concept.

The one that I was mulling over the other day was "love." Now, I'm pretty sure that almost everyone, asked to supply the antonym for "love", would immediately offer "hate." And certainly "hate" is on the opposite spectrum from love. But I'm not entirely sure that it is the most accurate antonym. C.S. Lewis argued that the opposite of love wasn't hate, but indifference. I, of course, balked at that. I mean, seriously, look it up in the dictionary or the thesaurus. It will not list "indifference" as the antonym for "love". Still, I was forced to re-examine my objection.

What does "love" mean? It means "I care." It means "I am concerned about your best interests." Oh, I know, most people think it is an emotional gush. Let's not go there, okay? No, it is a decision to pay close attention to the needs of the one you are loving. When you put it this way, it becomes much easier to see what the antonym would be simply by placing a negative term in the above definitions. If "love" means "I care", the antonym would be "I don't care." If love means "I am concerned about your best interests", the antonym would be "I am not concerned about your best interests." The antonym, then, for love would indeed be "indifference."

"Fine, Stan," you might well say, "so we'll agree that the antonym in this case is what you said. What's the point of this little excursion into the English language?" The point here is that we are often mistaken when we who are commanded to love tell ourselves "I'm not hating, so it's not a failure to love." If "hate" is not the accurate antonym and "indifference" is, then we are indifferent, we are refusing to love. What I'm trying to point out is this: It is not hate that we have to avoid; it is indifference. And it is my suspicion that, if you are anything at all like me, that is a much harder problem for us.

Jonathan added the following comment: I've never heard it put like that, and it makes me regret even reading it, because now I will no longer be able to look at the issue the same way ever again. I've come to terms antonyms in some cases, like, being a good person doesn't mean just not being a bad person. Or not telling a lie doesn't mean you're necessarily telling the truth. You hear the phrase all the time, "I don't hate anyone", but you're right, that's not the goal, that doesn't make you loving. Love your neighbors doesn't mean all you have to do is not hate him, or just treat him well, I need to genuinely care. A hard lesson that needs to be learned by an increasingly apathetic world, inside and outside the church.

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