Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Is it true?
We tell this to kids so that when the toothy 9-year-old calls them a no-good teacher’s pet, they don’t engage in a flying tackle of almighty retribution that results in minor to severe injury.
On some level, we all know that this is crap. Words can do far more than hurt us. Words can scar and injure us just like pain. Pain isn’t just something that happens to us. It’s something that changes us.
Words are the same. Like pain, words can affect us without leaving a mark. They don’t leave scars or scrapes or colors. Yet they can heal or hurt us in a way we can’t ever recover from. We are inspired or despaired by the words and ideas and beliefs, dreams, and fears of others.
The idealism of our youth is that we can always recover from the words of others. To an extent, this is untrue. Bells cannot be unrung, and songs cannot be unsung. But remember that bit about words being able to heal us?
If you’ve ever listened to something inspirational (MLK and Reagan on equal rights, most inauguration speeches, even You Tubers on social dynamics), then you know the power words can have. If written right, if spoken right, and if delivered, words can change us forever. Words can damage and mend in equal measure, depending on who is speaking and who is listening.
Not to put too much weight on it, but we all must be mindful of the words we produce. The blogs, the books, the stories, the comments, the articles, the essays, the poetry… with every word we write, we pledge ourselves to our words and to our readers. And with every word we read, we take the fealty of the author to heart.
What about you? Have you ever heard or read something that hurt you? Have you ever said anything to hurt others? Have you ever been mended so slightly by something you’ve read? What books have most affected you?