The other day, Indigo was going through our customer emails, and she said to me, “Mom, how do you say c-h-u-t-z-p-a-h and what does it mean?” I immediately started laughing because I knew exactly what chutzpah meant. I went to high school and lived in an area that was heavily Jewish. I had lots of Jewish friends and attended several bar and bat mitzvahs when I was younger. I also spent time at our local Jewish Community Center with friends.
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word I hadn’t heard in years.
The email Indigo was reading was someone saying that she admired me for my chutzpah. Some of the other children had heard me laughing and came into the office to enquire what was up. (You know, children never want to be left out of any fun discussions!)
So I said, “Mom just got complimented for having a lot of ‘chutzpah’. It’s a Jewish word that actually describes me quite well. What do you think it means?”
At the same exact time, Mason and Brett both said, “Spunky.” (They’re such a good team!)
A few other adjectives (that I don’t remember) were thrown out and so we decided to google it.
Miriam Webster dictionary defines chutzpah as: “supreme self confidence, nerve, gall”
Dictionary.com defines chutzpah as: “1. unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall 2. audacity; nerve”
Wikipedia says: “Chutzpah is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The Yiddish word derives from the Hebrew word ḥutspâ (חֻצְפָּה), meaning “insolence”, “cheek” or “audacity”. Thus the original Yiddish word has a strongly negative connotation but the form which entered English through Ameridish has taken on a broader meaning, having been popularized through vernacular use in film, literature, and television. The word is sometimes interpreted—particularly in business parlance—as meaning the amount of courage, mettle or ardor that an individual has.”
And the Collins Dictionary says, “If you say that someone has chutzpah, you mean that you admire the fact that they are not afraid or embarrassed to do or say things that shock, surprise, or annoy other people.”
And I think it’s that last definition that I like the best. I live my life intentionally and with intensity, and I’m definitely not afraid or embarrassed to say what I think needs saying or do what I think needs doing despite what others are going to think about it.
When I was told, “You’re throwing away your education and your life if you quit your job and become a stay-at-home Mom.” I wasn’t afraid to say, “I don’t think so. Being a stay-at-home Mom and caring for my children is more important than anything I could accomplish in Corporate America.”
When I was told, “You shouldn’t get pregnant again, you already have too many children and the planet is over-populated.” I wasn’t afraid to say, “You’re wrong. Children are a blessing from the Lord and each and every one of them is wanted and an asset to this world, not a liability.”
When I was told, “You’ll never be able to support your family making soap.” I wasn’t afraid to say, “Really? Watch me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
When I was told, “It’s child abuse the way you make your children work so hard.” I wasn’t afraid to say, “I believe it’s child abuse to NOT teach your children how to work.”
To me, that’s chutzpah – standing up verbally for what you believe in and being willing to be engaged in the discussion of what you believe in.
Show chutzpah on what’s most important. It’s a lot easier to just quietly go about your business. And believe me, there is a place for that. I’m not at all demeaning quietly going about your daily business. But there comes a point where you need to take a stand for what you believe in even if you know it’s not going to be popular and people are going to give you flak about it. Figure out what those issues are for you that it’s worth showing chutzpah over.
Don’t show chutzpah on every issue. Be careful to not make every issue a battle ground. Limit yourself. Even if you have a strong opinion on something, it might not be right to take a stand there.
Use chutzpah for good. I also want to stress that it’s important to note what Wikipedia said – that chutzpah can be for good or bad. You need wisdom when you’re standing up for something. There is a right time to take a stand and a wrong time to take a stand. And you need wisdom to know the difference.
Teach your children chutzpah. I’ve never used the word “chutzpah” with my children before, but the attitude is definitely something I teach. It comes easily to some of the children and a lot harder to others. Right now, I mostly teach it to them in the context of social situations. If they ever hear somebody bullying or belittling another person, they know they are expected to stand up and put a stop to it.
But again, they need wisdom. For example, I teach my children, that if they are with a group of friends, and their friends are being immature and doing “stupid” stuff, they don’t have to try to be their parent and prevent them from being stupid.
But… if anybody is about to do something that would cause bodily injury or permanent damage, it is their duty to stand up and try to put a stop to it no matter if everyone else thinks it’s a good idea. That takes a lot of chutzpah.
What about you? Whether or not you’ve ever heard or used the word ‘chutzpah’ before, are their issues you’re not afraid or embarrassed to speak up about even if it causes shock, surprise, or annoyance?