It seems like the word chaos is everywhere these days. Particularly when it comes to the the Trump presidency. Or maybe just politics in general.

And I’ll admit, there is a ton happening in our world right now. And a lot of it is messy. And it seems random. And it is certainly different than a lot of what has been happening for the last several years.

But chaos?

A few years ago I was in a counseling session complaining to telling him about how hard my life was. A lot was changing in my life: job descriptions, reporting structures, friends who I thought were stable relationships that evaporated in the mess. I had new responsibilities at work, I was training my replacements to cover old responsibilities, and there was still more changes coming. Chaos. Right?

And he says to me, “Chaos is war. It is bullets flying. It’s not knowing if you or the guy next to you is going to get hit. Everything else is less than chaos.”

I’m paraphrasing like crazy there – it’s been a while – but that thought has stuck with me. I’ve had some rough periods in my life. I’ve “fought” through some difficult things. But I’ve never had bullets flying. I’ve never worried about the guy next to me being shot.


So what is this situation that I’m in, if it’s not chaos? (What is this situation that our country is in?) It’s messy. It’s divided. It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s uncertain. It’s less than ideal. It is harder than I had hoped. It’s emotional. It’s exhausting. Did I mention it’s hard?

You see I was cheating. I was skipping the honest evaluation of my situation and working towards truth and a solution. Instead I was playing the martyr and using an emotionally loaded word to inaccurately conflate my troubles. Poor me. My life is so hard. It’s chaos. And thankfully, my counselor caller BS.

So 5 years later, with the word chaos flying around as if it was bullets, and I’m reminded, once again, that it almost never is that bad. We may not know where all this is heading. We may not agree with some of what we know. But the word chaos is an emotional exaggeration to get ratings. It’s a cheap trick and journalists should know better than that.

Edit: If you saw an earlier version of this post (rss), I deleted the bit at the bottom. I was distracting myself, and therefore you, from the point. Even in a post about accuracy of language and saying what you mean, I missed the point. No wonder we’re struggling.