I'm continuing to ponder useful words that might be in danger of becoming obscure, their meanings lost in the sands of time. If you're interested in the subject, I suggest you consider buying The One-Minute Philosopher by Montague Brown. It's a relatively short book that lists helpful words and their meaning.
Consider the word lax. This three-letter word denotes an important concept. If you become L-A-X about teaching important things, the consequences can pack a nasty punch. For instance, we can see the problems that occur when parents, teachers, and other others in society become lax about instilling virtue in the youth.
This summer, many people were appalled and flummoxed by juvenile delinquents taking part in "flash mobs" in places like Minnesota, Philadelphia, and D.C. Using technology to plan their nefarious activities, gangs of young criminals beat and robbed people.
Many of the adults in these young criminals' lives had most likely been lax about teaching rules, boundaries, and limitations.
But this little word goes beyond parents failing to inculcate virtue in their children.
Laxness, for instance, is also a useful word in describing an "indifference" to the action of a "wrongdoer." Many people cringe at punishing these young criminals. While we always want to temper justice with mercy, laxness tempers punishment, but with callous disregard for both the criminal and society.
Brown puts it like this: "Like mercy, laxness does not punish the wrongdoer as severely as he deserves. However, unlike mercy, indifference rather than love is the motive for laxness. Laxness exists when moral standards are low or nonexistent. It does not care whether an act deserves punishment."
Like birds of a feather, mercy and justice form what we call restorative justice (RJ). RJ principles hold every human being in high regard. Dan Van Ness and Karen Strong, who pioneered the concept of "restorative justice," explain: "Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime and reducing the likelihood of future harm."
Back to the word which is on its way to becoming obscure: L-A-X. We all have an interest in keeping this short word alive.