The Serious Side of Synonyms

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by Betsy Lowery

We writers often evaluate the nuances of meaning between two similar words as we seek the “right” word to use. It’s not unheard of for me to poll my friends: How would you describe the difference between “acceptable” and “adequate”? Or between “maturity” and “wisdom”?

If asked to “tell something unusual about myself,” I could admit to finding great mental stimulation (a.k.a. fun) in making a list of synonyms, then studying on how each word is different from the others. After all, if two synonyms meant exactly the same thing, then both words wouldn’t exist. Right? There are exceptions to that, but I digress….

Weighing the meanings of similar words often takes me down a path of serious observation and reflection.

At work I have a recurring reminder to do my tasks with diligence, integrity, cheerfulness, and love. The other day, I was trying unsuccessfully to make a nice acronym out of these words; starting letters weren’t cooperating, so I began entertaining synonyms for cheerfulness.

You know what happened next. Words on parade, through my brain:
Cheerfulness. That’s somewhat like enthusiasm, which makes me think of eagerness, and even excitement.

Then the questions started, helping me to picture a practical application of my moving train of thought:

• Do “gung ho” (enthusiastic) people always spread cheer? (Think drill sergeant.)
• Do you know someone who is eager and motivated (enthusiastic), but without joy?

You probably work or live with (or near) people who have drive and devotion, yet lack true enjoyment in what they do. They’re driven, but not satisfied. Successful, but not truly purposeful. Do you pray for those people? They need that from you. I didn’t have “love” on my list of reminder words at first. I tacked it on later. To be a good employee, I need diligence, integrity, cheerfulness (because we all need smiles and humor, every day)… and I need to love my coworkers and neighbors.

Don’t take that word lightly. I’m not using it lightly. Love encompasses a serious list of attitudes and actions. And to love others is commanded by our Lord Jesus. Which of the four could you stand a little improvement on today? Diligence? Integrity? Cheerfulness? Love?

Stick to the task. Give your true best. Smile at people. And really care about them.

Betsy LoweryBetsy Lowery, a North Carolina native, is author of Pause: Everyday Prayers for Everyday Women (2004, Revell), Called-Out Life E-devotional, and two as-yet-unpublished novels, A Stranger’s Promise (2016) and its sequel, The Wrong Type of Love (2017). She is a graduate of Mars Hill University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Currently serving at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, she writes and designs promotional content for church events. When not writing or taking pictures, Betsy loves to knit and hates to dust. Follow her knitting life and find her on Twitter and Instagram @hiyabets. She is married to Jeff and has two grown daughters, all living in Birmingham, AL.

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