For some time now I have been thinking about how the words we use and say affect us and everybody around us and how our actions also do the same.
There are a couple of old sayings or idioms that keep popping in and out of my mind. They go like this:
“Actions speak louder than words.” AND
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
There is some truth in each of the above quotes but they need some clarification.
Take the second phrase about words not hurting for instance. Hateful words can definitely hurt both in the present and the future. Even when we think we are ignoring the derogatory words we hear our subconscious remembers.
If as a child you are repeatedly told you are stupid every time you make an honest mistake, you become an adult with the subconscious conviction you are stupid even though you may have a very high IQ. Then you go into therapy to repair the damage caused by those so-called ‘innocent’ remarks.
Harsh, derogatory words continue to hurt even as we grow older. I don’t think we ever reach an age when words don’t hurt. Not only can words hurt our feelings, they also lower our respect for the person uttering them, especially if they come from a loved one or a person we greatly admire.
While I believe it is true that actions do speak a lot louder than words I also find it very hard to see the good actions from someone who has uttered vile, venomous words. When I hear lies and deceit coming from a person it is like they have hung a black drape in front of them that makes it very hard for me to see any good actions. Eventually their good actions will come to the fore-front but it takes a long time to remove the ugly stain of hateful, hurtful language.
Seems to me most of the violence we see in the world is because of words. Words of themselves are harmless, it’s how they are used that is the problem. All the terrorism going on in the world is due to leaders using words to fuel their ideology and gain new recruits. The hate groups that are popping up everywhere, is it not again people spouting hate filled language to further their cause? Even a nation can be manipulated by constantly hearing half-truths and sometimes blatant lies. We hear this long enough we start thinking maybe that is the truth.
I know people can change and many do, but once the words are spoken they can never really be retracted. This is equally true when we use positive, up-lifting words. We can get past the hurt when we hear and feel words of love, peace and praise.
Yes, the words we use can be very harmful indeed. Words have caused major conflicts and continue to do much damage. They can also be the most healing instrument we have. Imagine if we all started being more conscious of what we say to each other and the tone we say it in. If we would just take a second or two to think before we speak, there would a lot more happy and loving people in the world. Probably even less violence.
Therefore, I would amend the above quotes as follows:
“Actions speak louder than words but actions speak louder when backed by kind, loving words.” AND
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me is not always true, sometimes words can cause more damage than physical abuse.”
So, lets all strive to become more conscious of what we are saying to each other and the tone in which we say it. Ask, am I speaking from a place of love and respect for the other person? If not, then maybe I should adhere to another old saying;
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Heard this one many times from my mother growing up. Still a good motto to live by.
Until next time,