Forcing Our Ideas on Others

 “Gavage” (Go-vazh) is a French word meaning “to gorge,” which refers to the practice of force-feeding by tube, whether it be animals or humans. I prefer to think of this word a lot more in terms of societal thinking and politics. Years ago, religion might be included in that group, but I contend that politics has become the new religion in our society. In fact, many religious groups have become so devoted to their causes that a worship service or newsletter could be easily confused as a political rally or promotional materials. With a year round campaign cycle—no matter how distant the next election—and the swagger and hyperbole that was once saved for fiery pre-election debates only, we’re all being force fed bitter rancor, righteous indignation, and red lines that, if crossed, spell hellfire and damnation for us, forever. This is what I mean by gavage.


In this blog, I often express my distress about the increasing emotionalism infiltrating every aspect of our lives—you see it on national news broadcasts, during legislative debates, and religious sermons. The result of such a non-stop barrage of emotional hyperbole is a societal and personal drift away from valuing reason to hailing passion as the best way to make decisions. If we’re not careful, such incessant examples and influences can’t help but impact our thinking. Let me ask you this: do you do your best thinking when highly agitated? How many of us believe the calm, rational mindset Captain Sullenberger utilized when landing his plane safely on the Hudson River was the reason he succeeded under extremely dramatic and harrowing circumstances?


So, those are some examples of what I term gavage on a societal level. Let’s turn our focus to smaller scale offenses, such as the gavage that occurs in your own family. What expectations or ideas have you been force fed? And, even more threateningly, what standards or opinions are you force feeding others?I never force my sainted and thoughtful ideas on others,” you protest. “Yes, I am a repository of great wisdom—some of it hard earned—but I allow others to blossom or bumble as they see fit.” Oh, really? If I asked your family members about this do you think they’d agree or might they just snort and roll their eyes?


As someone who has been force fed, as well as having participated in some gavage of my own, I turn these questions on myself, too. Yes, I hold certain definite ideas, but as I proceed through life, I am ever more aware that my ideas have changed—and will continue to do so, I expect. I am far less likely to practice gavage on another now than I was, say, 10, 15, or 20 years ago. So, that’s progress, isn’t it? On the other hand, for much of my life and in many different arenas, I’ve been subject to the expectations of others with regard to behavior, loyalty, and deference. The price I’ve paid for failing to meet such standards includes calculated indifference, anger, and being cast out. This, my friends, is what I mean by “personal gavage.”


Where’s the line between accepting the fact that those close to us sometimes do or think about things very differently than we do [a neutral statement] versus feeling disappointed or insulted or condemning their actions? Note that expressions of these two, very different perspectives can appear to be identical in your outward behavior, but what are you really feeling? Is it emotional neutrality or is it hostility? People aren’t stupid; they can sense the difference.


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2 Responses to “Forcing Our Ideas on Others”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good job

  2. Don't Force Things In Life Says:

    […] Forcing Our Ideas on Others […]

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