Friday, April 26, 2013

Mere words

Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But words can never hurt me
--one of the biggest cons Western society has ever swallowed
Why should I be so dismayed when people use words to cut and bruise others? After all, they're merely words, right? People who get their panties in a twist over something somebody said in a moment of anger are too thin-skinned. They should just toughen up and get over it, because after all, words are harmless.

Thing is, I'm a writer. Words are my stock in trade. I know their power, and if you're being honest with yourself, so do you. If you can think of a book -- scripture, fiction, any book at all -- or a story or a ballad or a poem or a movie that shook you, moved you, changed your life, you know the power "mere words" can have.

So if you think a cruel word spoken in a rash moment is perfectly harmless, stop and think. Do you also believe, then, that a kind word spoken to warm and uplift is perfectly worthless? That indeed the work of anyone who uses words to speak the truth, craft beauty, and fight injustice is similarly worthless?

Because the flip side of that pernicious little rhyme is that if we believe words have no power to hurt, we must also believe they have no power to help:
Drugs and pills
May patch my ills
But words can never heal me
Here's what words can do, from a man whose ability to use them is far more powerful than mine:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Forgot where I heard it...think it was a song by Infectious Grooves:

Sticks and stones
May break some bones
But my .357 will blow your damn head off.

A penny saved is a penny earned
But a stolen case of beer will get you a hell of a lot drunker.