Stupid is a criminally counterproductive word, which is not in any way edifying or beneficial to its user or its object. So if stupid is so incredibly destructive, why do people use it? In a way, there are probably as many reasons for using the word as there are situations in which people use it. However, I have found people’s motivations and rationalizations tend to boil down to a combination of arrogance, apathy, and conviction.
Arrogance is often a key factor, though not usually the active catalyst, in a person’s usage of stupid. As I mentioned previously, part of the crime of using stupid is it dismisses a person or idea and prevents further conversation on the topic. This is often because consciously or unconsciously they feel they already know the other person’s perspective, and consequently feel confident writing it off as ridiculous without any discussion on the matter. But ultimately, this is simple arrogance. It is arrogant first, to presume to know the mind of another person without discussion. It is arrogant second to write off an opinion at all, even after discussion. But to take something someone else believes is rational, and to say it is wrong – beneath reason even – is to place yourself unreasonably far above another person and to declare it utterly impossible you are wrong on this issue. This sort of declaration borders on narcissism.
But this narcissistic over-confidence is not the only reason people use stupid. Often times, a discussion simply is not important or not enticing to one party at a given moment, and the first easy out of the conversation is to dismiss an otherwise merely disagreeable idea as stupid. Here, arrogance is not the issue. Apathy is. I sympathize with this problem, as I often find myself in conversations in which I would rather not participate, but in light of the tremendous destructive power of stupid I find it best to use other means to extricate myself from those situations.
Quite the opposite of apathy, another common factor which compels the use of stupid is great conviction – more particularly, conviction combined with frustration at another’s opposing conviction. As a Christian, this is probably the most obvious, most frequent motive I have seen. I have rarely witnessed a new-earth creationist and a Darwinist have a conversation which ends without one or both calling the others’ ideas stupid. I also find this very understandable, but it is the single most unacceptable usage of this word. That discussion – in fact any discussion which stems from great conviction in both participants – has tremendous value which is derived from those convictions. It is therefore tragically unfair to end the conversation, perhaps permanently, by deriding one another with such a destructive word.
Most of the time, it is not a pure version of any of these three factors. There are often subtle combinations of these three motives as well as other subtle emotions in play. But these three things tend to characterize the usage of stupid more often than not. While they are largely understandable in light of our fallen humanity, they do not adequately excuse use of stupid – not by a long shot. We must be on guard against our arrogance, and be aware of our apathy and conviction so they do not lead us unjustly to dismiss ideas and people as stupid.
Why do YOU use stupid? Do you think it is acceptable? Am I stupid?? Let me know in the comments
ALL opinions are welcome to comment. However, please feel free to place all your insults, sarcasm, and incivility ELSEWHERE in cyberspace. I implore you to contribute respectfully and intelligently to a discussion that may benefit all involved by mutual education and edification.