photo © 2007 Theodore Scott | more info (via: Wylio)When we were children, many of us learned the chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” in a sing-song voice we would proclaim this to those who teased us. Maybe you, like me, heard this from a parent or adult. The well-meaning adults were trying to help us put teasing and name-calling into perspective.. They wanted us to see that those who teased, called us names, taunted us, and generally annoyed us with their words were not significant. These moments would pass. The did pass. But they also hurt sometimes.
Words can and do have an impact on us. They can bring us down or build us up. They can help bolster esteem, or they can be hurtful. Words can impact our spirit. The broken bones often heal faster than a broken spirit. When I was in fourth grade, my class was given an assignment. Each student was given a piece of paper with all the names’ of our classmates in a column. By each name we were to write something we liked about that person. Then, all the papers were collected. Each student received a red heart made of construction paper. On the heart, all the statements were stapled for each particular student. We were all so excited to read what our classmates liked about us. Some were more specific than others. It was wonderful! There was, however, one I know that was left off of my heart. I know because the writer himself told me. Robby had written something unkind. He asked if it was on mine. It wasn’t. He asked the parent who had assembled the hearts if she had put all the statements on each heart. We both listened as she said that she had left his off of my heart. He did not have anything nice to say about me. Suddenly, all of the positive comments on my heart were not as wonderful because one person could not come up with one thing nice to say about me. He had been mean, and he wanted me to know that he had been mean.
A significant amount of time has passed since I was in the fourth grade. But, I remember this incident. As an adult I know that Robby’s reasons for writing something mean probably had very little to do with me, but I remember how hurt I was. Maybe he had experienced so much meanness and cruelty in his own life he could only communicate in a negative way. Maybe he felt badly about himself. No matter what the reason, it did hurt my feelings. It did matter that he had unkind things to say.
Your words matter as well. You can choose to lift others up with your words of kindness, love, and affection, or you can choose to tear others down. Your words can be nice or hurtful. Your words do matter and have an affect on others around you.