We have all heard it. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This childhood rhyme, so often spoken in playgrounds and in public, tell us that physical things that can physically bruise us have the power to hurt us, but the ethereal, abstract, intangible nature of words won’t. Sadly, this is the farthest thing from the truth. If anything, the physical bruises will disappear with time and yet the emotional bruises we bear can sometimes last a lifetime. Words are as real as the chair you sit on and the laptop that you’re using. Its effects are just as real as a punch in the face. Words can hurt, scar, and kill. Words are powerful.
I grew up in an Asian family. In Asian families, family members and relatives tend to be rather free with the words they use. It’s not uncommon to see someone after a long time and be greeted with “oh, look at you. You got fat.” That is the one thing that I dislike about my culture: the lack of sensitivity they show towards others. Every culture has its flaws and this is probably the one that riles me up the most. There are a lot of things that I do like about my culture, but this is the one I can definitely live without.
When people share insensitive comments, most of it is done not out of malice, but out of ignorance. I guess they believe that because they have a thought in their head, they should share it. However, some thoughts should probably stay locked up in your brain and never escape your lips. Because once the words are out, there is a consequence. There is an effect. And sometimes that effect can be very negative.
I grew up thinking that I was ugly and unworthy of love because I was ugly. It wasn’t that I felt I was ugly… I WAS ugly. And even now, with a lot of friends trying to tell me that I’m not, I still revert to that mode of thinking. It’s hard to let it go. It’s hard not to let it affect you.
We allow ourselves to listen and believe the words that other people have spoken over us. But, we also have the ability to stop allowing others’ words to define who we are! You can define who you are by the words you speak over yourself. This is something that can be very difficult to achieve on a daily basis. And perhaps, this will be our everlasting struggle in life. But, this is a struggle that we must endure. In this battle, we must persevere. Because if we don’t, we will lose ourselves. And that is a horrible thing to lose.
In the same way that words have the ability to destroy a life, it can also build it. I know that I am who I am today because there have been people who spoke words of encouragement over my life. They told me that I mattered. They told me that I was loved. They told me that I was worth it. They told me about the loving grace of God who wanted to be with me. When faced with those types of words, it’s easy to feel good about yourself.
As you go through your day chatting with different people, be mindful of the words you speak over their life. May it be words that seek to lift them up instead of bringing them down. Let’s remind others that words can and will hurt us so let’s use it responsibly and wisely.