When I was growing up I remember hearing (and believing) the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.”
And, for the most part, I still think it’s true.
There is no adequate replacement for genuinely connecting with other beings through acts of kindness, compassion and love.
Actions such as looking into the eyes of a stranger; reaching out and embracing someone when she is having a bad day; or writing a letter that unveils the truth of the heart are essential to nurturing our spirits and community. These actions remind us of our humanness and deep, tender connections to one another.
At the same time, through actions, we are offered true insight into a person’s intentions, saving us from heartache and pain when we see that those intentions are not necessarily good.
(There really are some things that can’t be sugar coated with beautiful poetry.)
Recently, I have been contemplating this phrase and feeling heavy hearted because it seems that words are becoming the actions and some people are using them irresponsibly and callously. They are using them to hurt people in thoughtless and malicious ways.
As a writer, who knows the power of words, this pains me.
It maddens me that people can anonymously throw words around without ever having to know the effects they will have on another person.
Even worse, they probably don’t even care.
It especially hurts me when the people caught in the crossfire are kids who are being exposed to this vindictive behavior through the internet, in the form of cyber-bullying.
It makes me so sad to imagine a 13-year-old girl excitedly jumping out of bed in the morning to read her blog and instead of notes of friendship and joy from her friends, she finds malicious statements like,
“You’re ugly. You’re worthless. Why were you even born?”
These carelessly written statements mutate into living threads that unless unraveled, are permanently woven into the person’s being.
And, yes, words are this powerful.
Some words are so powerful that our minds play them over and over again until we forget that before they became a part of our internal dialogue, they were seeds that were planted there from somewhere outside of ourselves.
Somewhere between computer screen and self-awareness, our consciousness shifted from hearing the words, “you’re ugly,” into believing the inner voice that says, ‘I’m ugly.” Creating wounds that take a long time to heal.
It’s even more troubling to know that people writing these words are so far removed from the outcomes that they never actually have to see the tear-stained face or the scars left on the person’s heart.
They remain comfortably faceless (and to some extent, protected) behind their computer screens and multiple layers of cyberspace.
In a way, they become robots and their words, weapons. Leaving us all vulnerable and open to attack.
I’m not saying that every word written has to be dipped in sweetness, positivity and light.
An important part of being a creator is grappling with the balance between light and darkness. And, fortunately, we can do this through our stories, our characters and even difficult, but honest communication.
What I am saying, is that if our words are directly targeting another person, we have to take responsibility and stand behind them, regardless of our age or experience.
We need to teach children about the power of words and how to use them. They need to know that they can be just as painful as a direct physical assault, leaving bruises that remain tender for years.
The internet is not a place for people to wreak havoc and cause emotional damage without any consequences.
And, really, it’s a cowardly way to live.
The real superheroes will choose to use their writing powers for good.
Author: Brandie Smith
Editor: Renée Picard