“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
How often did I chant these words to friends or enemies or frenemies in my childhood? Some adult or one of my peers must have taught me this idiom, but where did the saying come from in the first place? Because, let’s face it, it’s not true. I tried to use it as a protective shield – tried to believe that I was resilient against words, but I was fooling myself. Words can hurt.
Words can leave wounds and scars that, while hidden, may never heal. We have only to look at the bullying epidemic within schools and social networking sites to know this is to be true. Bullying is not just defined by physical aggression towards another person, it is the use of words – name-calling, threats, false rumors – that cause pain, humiliation, and low self-esteem. According to Dr. Andrea Cohn and Dr. Andrea Canter, bullying is “the most common form of violence in our society” (http://www.nasponline.org/resources/factsheets/bullying_fs.aspx).
What does this mean? It means that words have power. They can lift you up or crush you. They can bring about your downfall or lead to your success. They can bring about the start and end of revolutions. The important thing to remember as people, as parents, as teachers, as students, as writers, and as leaders is to use words wisely. Use them to create a positive change. Use them to promote critical thinking. Use them to make people feel, imagine, and learn. Our words can build a better society, if we let them.
As a writer, avid reader, and a teacher, I understand the power of words. It is the reason I write, read, and teach. When I write, I want to send a message (always the teacher!). I want to pass on the wisdoms I have learned in life and also, help my readers feel another’s pain, joy, and fear.
As a reader, I know that this is what makes literature so important. It teaches us how to see the world in a new light. It provides us a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes.
When I teach, I want to encourage learning, enhance personal strengths, and build self-confidence. I want to show students all that they are and all that they can become. I want to help them build their ladder to reach the starts, accomplish their dreams. This is all done with words.
What we say or write every day is somehow impacting someone. And we’ll never know how much.
So watch what you say. Be kind. Be thought-provoking. Be inspirational. Because today could be the day you help better the world.
Here is a wonderful video, illustrating the power or words (Thanks, Carol for the link!)