You will find all positive alternatives, if you check a thesaurus for the word, “JUST”. Why is it, then, that I see it used as a negative putdown? Maybe it's the tone of voice, a look, or a context.
I often hear people use the word, “Just”, in terms of 'Oh, they are JUST a student. JUST a cleaner.” JUST … fill in the blanks. In that sense. The word is not used positively but rather as, in my view, an insult, a negative and a putdown.
Why do people put others down, I muse? Is it because they feel inferior? Are they insecure? Or do they think they can climb higher if they push someone else down?
If it's the, “climb-higher-syndrome”, they must understand that that action means both fall down. It is interesting to note that Jesus, the King of all Kings, in his discussion with his disciples when they were pushing for status and hierarchy, said to them, “Whoever wanted to be the top, leader, needed to be the servant of all.” Strange, hey? Perhaps not, as it came from the “Servant King”.
I'm not too fond of putdowns. I'm not particularly eager to watch it. It makes me sad to see it. I am sad because I feel I am looking at insecurity attempting to push others into insecurity, which is unpleasant.
I remember one day at a large conference, a person approached me and said he had read one of my books. I gave him a genuine, “Thank you”. However, he continued in a relatively insulting tone and said, “You have done for literature what “so and so” has done for music.” To which I replied, “Thank you!”(I liked the person's music). Exceedingly irritated, the speaker responded, " I knew you would take that as a compliment,” which I indeed had. What he had said was clearly intended as an insult. LOL. With that, he walked off. It's great being so highly complimented.
Another story: When I was just a small boy, the deputy head teacher of my junior school called me forward in front of the class. I must have been about 10 or 11 years old. He said. “Hawkes, you are the most stupid boy that I have ever met. You will never be able to do anything, not even sweep up.” Not being given to insecurity, I did not reply but thought to myself that, “What you believe, “sir”, is a clear demonstration that you obviously don't know me at all.” I am not recommending my actions, but on leaving school and driving a new, rather swish company car, I drove past the school of my youth at the very time I knew the deputy head teacher would be leaving. On seeing him, I swished down my window as he came down the school path and said, “ Oh! Hello sir! Are you still riding that rusty old bike? He looked at me in astonishment, mouth open, no words coming, and I drove off.
Neel Burton MD, author of “Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions,” in one of his online articles, says “one of the ways of dealing with putdowns is humour.” I am unsure if my window-down car driving was humorous, but it felt fun. But Neel Burton quotes two anti put-down stories that I think are worth repeating:
George Bernard Shaw, it is said, once invited Winston Churchill to his new play. The invitation read: "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend—if you have one." Churchill replied: "Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second—if there is one."
An example, just for the fun: The American actress Ilka Chase wrote several novels. One day, an anonymous actress told her: "I enjoyed reading your book. Who wrote it for you?" Chase replied: "Darling, I'm so glad you liked it. Who read it to you?"
So, think before using that, “JUST” putdown: Why am I doing this? Is it because I am insecure?
Lift people up, and you will find that that deals more effectively with your insecurity.