September 22, 2020

There’s power in words—especially when they’re used as weapons

By Camille Anding
camilleanding@gmail.com

Words.

Who can count them? They’re everywhere— on signs and billboards; assembled in books, letters and reports. They spill from our lips — often without forethought — and merge with an endless flow from tongues of every nation and tribe.

Some words are put to music to tell stories or reveal happy or broken hearts. Other words are written in love letters, intimate and saturated in romance.

It’s striking to me to realize the power in words. A collection of the alphabet of innocent letters can form words that build up and edify or mutilate and destroy.

Words also have the power to lodge in our minds — like a branding in our brain. Children learn quickly to use words to communicate, but their words are less likely to stick. Their memories are short, and their hearts more forgiving.

It’s the teenage years when words become weapons of survival. Sarcastic words grow in popularity as individuals seek a rank in the “pecking” order. Group laughter elevates the speaker while singling out that individual to be the butt of the joke.

I find it interesting that my memory has “fogged” over a lot of my childhood’s details, but one memory is as fresh as the day it was made. A friend— I thought — singled me out in a group and formed a series of words that cut sharper than a dagger. There was no outward sign of blood, but I learned that day that hearts can bleed.

After the laughter died, life went back to the usual. All was history, but I had learned the searing pain of words and their ability to leave scars.

The most painful lessons are usually the best learned. That brief experience has remained a witness to me and a permanent reminder of the power of words. I wish I could say that my own tongue was tamed from that moment until now, but I can’t. I still let it say things that are not edifying or kind.

A wise proverb says, “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Another says, “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Gentle, kind words are what we need. There are enough scars.