First Things First

The Power of Words

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Many will recognize this rhyme as one taught to them when they were a child, but is it true?

In recent years, social media posts, along with Letters to the Editor and Rants to American newspapers often spew angry words and hate. In the vein of supposedly expressing their opinion and being helpful, writers name-call, judge from afar without knowing both sides of the story and are just plain mean. Reading the words would make most people cringe, yet the writer somehow believes this is acceptable behavior. Has a line been crossed?

Words used to communicate with someone can either build them up or tear them down. Have we become a society filled with so much anger and insecurity that we need to tear others down in order to feel good about ourselves? Is there no other way to discuss an issue than to verbally attack another person?

In 2014, pop artist Taylor Swift took things to a whole new level when she released a song written in response to the hateful things said about every aspect of her life. Shake it Off skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

When asked about the meaning behind the lyrics of Shake it Off, Swift told Rolling Stone magazine, “I’ve had every part of my life dissected — my choices, my actions, my words, my body, my style, my music. When you live your life under that kind of scrutiny, you can either let it break you, or you can get really good at dodging punches. And when one lands, you know how to deal with it. And I guess the way that I deal with it is to shake it off.”

The song has become an anthem for millions striving to shake off haters, players and fakers in their lives.

There is another saying many learned while growing up:  “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” Many of us have either forgotten the saying’s wisdom or a whole generation apparently never learned it.

Country singer, Alan Jackson, in his song Let it be Christmas sings, “Let anger and fear and hate disappear. Let there be love that lasts through the year.”  It is time to remember that all of us are people with hearts and minds. Some have had their hearts hardened over time and are kind of rough around the edges, while others are brokenhearted and filled with despair.

What would happen if we reminded ourselves daily that the words we speak and write have the power to incite anger, discourage and create distrust among people or to encourage, give hope, affirm and bring out the best in people?

It has been said that death and life are in the power of the tongue. What kind of a place would this be if people were intentional about giving life through their words and actions?

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