we tell stories and we listen to stories. We seek
them out. Through their stories and our interactions
with them, see people in all of their beauty, and a
deal of their ugliness. And we can learn a lot from
Allow me to tell you a story.
Phone rings. The man on the other end asks about
getting married. In Australia we celebrants
solemnize legal marriages, so I asked the routine
questions and gave him a quick outline of the legal
requirements and. And that’s where the slip of the
lip comes into the story.
One of the non-negotiable requirements for a legal
marriage ceremony is that the celebrant must recite
a passage from the Marriage Act that includes the
legal definition of marriage. At the end of 2017
that definition was changed from “the union of a man
and a woman” to “the union of two people”. I have
said and written the new definition hundreds of
times, each time with a frisson of joy. But for
reasons I will never be able to explain, on this
occasion “man and a woman” came out of my mouth.
I immediately backtracked, apologized for the slip,
and explained the change. I was surprised when he
responded that he believed that marriage should be
between a man and a woman because my values are hung
out all over my website and socials like bunting at
a coronation, so they are no secret.
Although the conversation continued for some time, I
felt a subtle change. So I asked why he was not
getting married in church. Turned out his church
won’t marry divorced people. Despite the
conversation being protracted and cordial, by the
time the call ended I was pretty sure that I
wouldn’t hear from him again.
Sounds like a pretty routine conversation, doesn’t
it? Later that day, when recounting the experience
to my son, who is somewhat expert in the history and
ways of extremist groups, things took a very
interesting turn, and I received a masterclass in
Apparently slips of the lip are a mechanism for
recognition in those circles, a verbal equivalent of
Masonic handshake. How extremists check out whether
another person’s beliefs align with theirs is to
make a slip, and assess the reaction, both to the
slip and to their correction, because it is at that
point that they strongly express their beliefs.
Apparently, if I had followed the extremist
codespeak playbook, the conversation would have
ended much faster than it did.
So, straight from the extremist speak playbook,
here’s what you should do if you inadvertently make
a slip that does not align with your values
- Correct your slip by stating the facts. (In my
case what I said was that the definition was
changed in 2017 when Australian government
changed the Marriage Act to allow same sex
couples to marry)
- Follow the correction with a strong statement
of agreement such as “And I’m very glad they
Thanks for reading!