I am troubled over some of the comments I read on facebook and things that I hear people say to one another lately. Sometimes these comments come from the most unlikely people, people you thought were above using words as a way to hurt others. Young people today use foul and abusive language toward each other and call it humor. “It’s just the way we talk to each other. They know we are only kidding. You just take everything too serious.” I am sorry but I disagree. The old saying sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt me is so far from the truth. In actuality bones and bruises heal rather quickly in comparison to the wounds that words leave on a person.
I don’t expect a perfect world where everyone gets along totally and nobody ever says a hurtful thing to another. That is not possible. We are after all humans. I also think that sometimes things left on facebook or send via text or email can easily be misinterpreted by others. I know that because it has happened to me many times. The written word doesn’t allow us to see the expression of the person giving the message or provide us an opportunity to hear the tone and inflections in their voice the way face to face conversation does.
In the article Pronunciation: Changing Meaning through Word Stress written for About.com by Kenneth Beare, he gives this example of how the meaning of a sentence is changed simply because a different word is stressed when speaking. Here is his example:
1. I said she might consider a new haircut. (It was my idea.)
2. I said she might consider a new haircut. (Don’t you understand me?)
3. I said she might consider a new haircut. (Not another person.)
4. I said she might consider a new haircut. (It’s a possibility.)
5. I said she might consider a new haircut. (She should think about it. it’s a good idea.)
6. I said she might consider a new haircut. (Not just a haircut.)
7. I said she might consider a new haircut. (Not something else.)
Do you see what I mean? When you take the face to face contact out of the equation leaving only text to convey our thoughts a lot of meaning may be missed or misinterpreted by the reader. Add to the equation the fact that most people who text or use facebook use abbreviations for everything possible and you increase the chance of misunderstanding even more. I do think that this is part of the problem but only a small part.
I really think that we live under a double standard. The way we expect to be treated and talked to is totally different from the way that we choose to talk to and treat others. “Oh, get over it. I was only joking. Can’t you take a joke?” But let’s put the shoe on your foot and let you see how comfortable it is to be called out on facebook. If you ask them they will say that it doesn’t matter but do you really think it’s true? Do you really think their self esteem is so high that being called vulgar names doesn’t affect them in any way? I am sorry but I just don’t buy it. I have seen firsthand the pain that these careless words cause and I believe that many others are hurt but are just able to hide it a little better than others. No one can judge the pain of another by simply looking at them. You never know the secret wounds that others may carry.
I look around me and see a lot of wounded and hurting people. I see those same people lashing out at others feeling that they are justified because of something that was done to them. Still others do it at an attempt to fit in-for acceptance and popularity. They are blind to the possible destruction they are causing with their words.
Words carry a lot of power. Martin Luther King used words to convince others to stand up and fight for civil rights. Adolf Hitler used words to convince others that it was necessary to eliminate an entire race of people. Our words do have power. They have the power of life and death, the ability to build up or tear down, the capacity to bless or to curse. We don’t get to choose whether or not we impact the lives of others we cross paths with. Often we are unaware of the impression we make on others. But we can control whether that influence is negative or positive, a curse or a blessing. So before you speak harshly about another or judge them and dismiss their feelings as irrational think about the power your words and your actions carry with them. I know that I will.
21 Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.~Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)
34-37″You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Matthew 12:37 (The Message)