The dictionary defines “congratulations” as a word used to acknowledge an achievement, recognize a milestone or a wonderful event, and generally to give someone a pat on the back for a job well done.
Recently, I was saddened (among other feelings which will be addressed in another blog post) when I saw on Facebook that a man was leaving the priesthood. The thing that truly boggled my mind and, frankly, horrified me, was the number of people who felt compelled to say, “Congratulations.” In what universe is it a good thing for a man to leave the priesthood? How is this something worthy of congratulations as though it were a celebration?
I’ve seen the same inappropriate response when people have announced they are getting a divorce. Now that’s not to say people should never get divorced. Make no mistake about my feelings on that. If someone is in an abusive relationship, they should get away from that situation as quickly as possible. Still – no one enters a marriage with the intention of getting a divorce. (At least, I hope that is the case!) Even when a bad marriage ends, it is a sad thing. Divorce is not what either party envisioned when they stood up before their families and friends, vowing, “Till death do us part.”
Maybe this misuse of the word ties in with the mentality of ‘everyone gets a trophy.’ Perhaps, like so many other words, the definition has degraded into something not even remotely resembling its original meaning. It might even be due to the fact that these people slept through English class and truly have no concept of the definition of the word. Or, most likely, people just respond with the first words that pop into their heads, without any thought or care taken to consider carefully what they are stating publicly.
I think social media is partly to blame for this. People are impulsive. They blurt out thoughts and ideas without careful consideration. Thus it has always been with people and I admit to being a key offender in the blurt category. Still, back in the day, one’s blurting was restricted to a small group. Now, it’s out there for hundreds to see. In my humble opinion, we would be a far better society if people would refrain from typing the very first thing that comes to mind and consider the fact that their audience is far bigger than just the person they are responding to.
And please, please use the word ‘congratulations’ in the proper context. Save it for things that are truly worthy of celebration. Otherwise you are making it just as meaningless as the phrase, “How are you?” which has morphed from a question of caring concern to an informal greeting tacked on to every ‘Hello’ uttered.