[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] THE RIZZ OF PHILANTHROPY: OXFORD’S 2023 WORD OF THE YEAR - Orthodox Christian Laity



Source:  OINOS Educational Consulting

by Frank Marangos, D.Min., Ed.D., FCEP

“Rizz” has been selected by Oxford Dictionary as their 2023 Word of the Year.  Defined as the “ability to attract another person through style, charm, or attractiveness,” the term is a shortened version of the word charisma.  Used as a verb, “to rizz up,” circumscribes the ability “to attract, influence, or seduce.” As a noun, a “rizzler,” refers to an individual who possesses and/or employs a great deal of “rizz.”

Each year, Oxford University Press monitors the corpus of the English language to see which words or phrases are new, have changed meaning, or have gone viral. The Dictionary’s lexicologists describe the aim of their annual selection process as the discovery of “a word or expression that reflects the past twelve months in some way, has potential as a term of lasting cultural significance, or provides a snapshot of social history.”

Oxford’s previous annual selections have included, “climate emergency” (2019), “vax” (2021), and “goblin mode” (2022). This year’s champion was chosen from a word list of finalists that included “Swiftie,” (fans of Taylor Swift), “prompt” (AI instructions), and “situationship” (an informal romantic or sexual relationship). According to the Dictionary, usage of “rizz” spread like wildfire in 2023 on social media platforms. They predict that the expression’s utility will continue to increase by 15% over the current year.

Customarily, the word “charism,” from which the term “rizz” is derived, appears in four conceptualizations: (1) philosophical, (2) spiritual, (3) sociological, and (4) cultural. According to the classical Greek lexicon of Liddell and Scott, the philosophical meaning of “charism” was first introduced by ancient Greek and Roman logicians who assigned to it the aesthetic attributes of beauty, kindness, gratitude, charm, goodwill, and attractiveness.

The second conceptualization of “charism” may be attributed to Paul of Tarsus who spiritualized the word in his writings to refer to the gifts of wisdom, faith, prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues (glossolalia), and miracles (1 Corinthians 12). Charisma was, thereby, linked by Saint Paul to the “charismata” (gifts), the extraordinary facilities of Grace that are bestowed by God through the Holy Spirit.

The addition of generosity, as a spiritual example of this unmerited endowment, was introduced in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, wherein he outlines a long list of spiritual gifts and how to use them. These gifts are charity (love), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Romans 12:6-8). The “charism” of generosity was, therefore, understood as “liberally contributing to the needs of others” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

Unlike its philosophical and spiritual conventions, the third conception of the word “charisma” may be traced to Max Weber, the well-known German sociologist, historian, and political economist, who used the term to characterize the quality of a leader “whose personality was endowed with exceptional influential qualities.” Weber borrowed the religious term charisma and extended its use to a secular meaning. For Weber, “charisma” imbued an individual or institution with an extraordinary gradation of sociological authority.

The fourth and final conceptualization of the word “charisma” is evidenced in the term “rizz” that, according to the Oxford Press, is now being used to express fame, stardom, attractiveness, and success in the context of actors, athletes, socialites, musicians, models, and influencers. The Dictionary defines this contemporary manifestation of charisma as a “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.” Wikipedia, on the other hand, suggests that the word describes “elusive, even undefinable personality traits” that may include grace, exuberance, equanimity, mystique, positive energy, extreme charm, and personal magnetism.

From what has been discussed thus far, the origin and ancient use of the word charisma implies an extraordinary, if not magical, understanding of an intangible phenomenon. Over time, however, the association between charisma and extra-human capabilities becomes largely obsolete, except among strongly religious people. Similarly, as with leadership, notions that charismatic qualities are inborn or bestowed by the Divine, and, thereby, not easily taught or developed, have been largely dismissed.

In her book, The Charisma Myth (2012), Olivia Fox Cabane discusses the concept of charisma and how an individual can become more “charismatic” by developing three characteristic traits: (1) presence, (2) power, and (3) warmth. According to the author, presence is “being in the moment” and “giving an individual full attention.” When fully present, suggests Cabane, “even a five-minute conversation can create a ‘wow’ effect as well as an emotional connection.” Power, on the other hand, has many aliases.  As examples, Cabane highlights the “charismatic” qualities of the Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, Oprah, and Steve Jobs. While reflecting confidence, professionalism, and authority, she insists that such individuals developed the capability to combine presence and power with the genuine intentions of warmth.

Apart from exhibiting three characteristic traits, Cabane suggests that influential individuals can be clustered into four categories of charism.

  1. Focused Charism: Individuals who listen intently and make others feel respected and heard.
  2. Visionary Charism: Individuals who have complete conviction in an idea or cause and inspire others to follow.
  3. Kindness Charism: Individuals who create warm and emotional connections with others.
  4. Authority Charism: Individuals with power and status.
Kurt Mortensen disagrees with Cabane’s thesis that charisma is not innate but can be developed. Nonetheless, the author concedes that charisma can, indeed, be refined. In his book, The Laws of Charisma: How to Captivate, Inspire, and Influence for Maximum Success (2010), Mortensen explores the vital attributes that can be cultivated to earn trust, generate interest, and motivate others in the workplace. His book presents 30 critical skills or traits of charismatic people and provides current and historical examples of how each component can be enhanced.  Accordingly, Mortensen suggests the following four core innate clusters of charism that can and should be refined:
  1. Radiate confidence, passion, power, and optimism.
  2. Combine purpose, creativity, competence, and focus to inspire commitment.
  3. Influence others by improving communication skills.
  4. Persuade and empower anyone by creating instant rapport.

 In her book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding of People (2017), Vanessa van Edwards outlines 12 traits of charismatic individuals. Like Cabane and Mortensen, van Edwards provides accompanying action steps for developing each attribute. According to Edwards, charismatic people have developed uncommon expressions of:

1. Self-awareness
2. Warmth
3. Competence
4. Relaxed and open body language
5. Socialize where they’re comfortable
6. Active listeners
7. Playful
8. Self-control
9. Humble
10. Maintains good eye contact
11. Share and spread praise
12. Remember people’s names

In addition to the major categories and charismatic personalities suggested by Cabane, Mortensen, and van Edwards, an additional classification should be included, namely, the philanthropic.  In my opinion, philanthropists are charismatic “rizzlers” who have the ability to intensely attract, energize, and influence others.

In his insightful article, “Adam Smith and Three Theories of Altruism”(2001), Elias L. Khalil, discusses the three traditional classifications of altruism: (1) egoistic, (2) egocentric, or (3) alter-centric perspectives.  “Rizz-centric” altruism should also be included in the list as it can easily include highly empathetic individuals whose generous and compassionate nature compels them to utilize their joie de vivre – their personal, professional, and pecuniary gifts (charisms) – to transform society.

The “rizz” of such individuals, however, must never be understood as the result of some mysterious, water-walking magical elixir. On the contrary, genuine philanthropic charisma rests on humility and the conviction that the stones that support their altruistic walk-on-water is their “spiritual” support system. Consequently, the charism of personality, prosperity, and privilege are never exalted.

Recognized as firmly, but not exclusively, ensconced within the spiritual domain, “philanthropic rizz” may easily include distinctives from one or more of the four conventional constructs. The charisma of philanthropy enables donors to cheerfully offer their energies, abilities, and material resources for the common good.  For those with the charism of generosity, sharing resources is not a duty or responsibility but is life-giving and energizing.

In the final analysis, “philanthropic rizz” is created through authentic vulnerability and a genuine desire to connect with others. It is the heart and soul of philanthropic individuals whose generosity inspires and transforms. Theirs is a charism that is not based on pedigree or personality, but on a genuine caring for the needs of others that ultimately has the power to transform the donor, recipient, community, and, ultimately, the world itself.

The late Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu, is a prime example of a philanthropic “rizzer.”  In his book, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for our Time (2005), the noted Archbishop stressed the belief that “generosity comes from seeing that everything we have and everything we accomplish comes from God’s grace and God’s love for us.”  Tutu bases his conception of philanthropy on the ancient African concept of “ubuntu,” a word that stresses “humanity to others.”

Manyane Makua outlines five core values of “ubuntu”: (1) survival, (2) spirit of solidarity, (3) compassion, (4) respect, and (5) dignity. In his article, “Ubuntu Pedagogy – Transforming Educational Practices in South Africa Through an African Philosophy”(2021), like Tutu, Makua stresses that it was the notion of “ubuntu, that enabled African communities, during harsh environmental conditions, to survive.” According to Makua, these populations were enabled to do so “by relying on each other for existence despite differences they might have had amongst themselves.”

Without knowing it, Philanthropic “rizzers” are exemplars of “ubuntu.” According to Archbishop Tutu, they are individuals who understand that “generosity comes from the realization that we could not be alive, nor could we accomplish anything, without the support, love, and generosity of all the people who have helped us to become the people we are today. Certainly,” exhorts Tutu, “it is from experiencing this generosity of God, and the generosity of those in our life, that we learn gratitude and to be generous to others.”

In truth, philanthropic “rizz” operates out of a spirit of “ubuntu” – a selflessness that does not require or demand recognition or reward.  Individuals imbued with the “charism” of such altruism, unapologetically recognize that their resources are an endowment from God, and must, therefore, be leveraged on behalf of others.

In the final analysis, “philanthropic rizz” is a special “charism” – a distinctive grace that enables donors to modestly give of self, talent, and/or personal resources, for the glory of God. In an intriguing fashion, like their donors, philanthropic gifts (charismata) dedicated to the common good also possess an innate “rizz” of their own. In this sense, they not only serve others but also contribute to the healing and actual sanctification of society itself.

I can think of no better word to go viral in the New Year!


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