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Our words matter.

Yesterday I read a news story about a teenage girl in Texas who killed herself due to cyber-bullying.  Other kids were picking on her through social media about her weight.  The bullying was so relentless that she committed suicide as a result.

Our words are that powerful.

I often hear parents excuse mean comments said between their children as “sibling banter.” Our future president has excused his crass comments about women as “locker room talk.”  Some musicians claim that their vulgar song lyrics are “creative expression.”  The problem with those excuses is this: If we have to make excuses for what we say, we probably shouldn’t be saying it in the first place.

We can wound people by our words using very little effort or intellect. “You are fat.”  “You are dumb.”  “You are ugly.”  We can injure merely by using the vocabulary of a kindergartener.

When I was a kid, we used to say a little rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. If only that were true.  Try telling that to the family of the young lady from Texas.

We are living in an age in which our power to communicate is at an all-time high. We can send a text or an email to someone on the other side of the world merely by clicking “send.”  We can set up blogs, vlogs, Instagram accounts and Facebook pages to share our thoughts about other people, politics, science and society.  But with that power comes responsibility.

We are not autonomous beings inhabiting this earth. If we were, in some respects, life would be a whole lot easier.  Instead, for better or worse, we are connected to one another.  What I do and say affects other people and vice versa.  So, our words have far reaching effects.  As a result, if we want to live in a world that is pleasant, peaceful and gentle, we need to communicate in ways that promote that.

Admittedly, I am not perfect in this regard. If I am irritated, I can say things that are unkind and not helpful.  But I try to keep that kind of behavior at a minimum.  For the most part, I make a conscious effort to encourage rather than discourage, and to lift up others whenever I can.

We all need to scrutinize what we are saying to others, whether it be in private conversation or publicly on the Internet.   We always should be asking ourselves, “Is what I am saying inspiring, encouraging, amusing or informing others?  If not, then what am I trying to accomplish?”  The second question is the one most of us avoid asking ourselves.  If the purpose of your communication is to hurt, ridicule, or discourage another person, then your words need to stay inside your head.

Take some time to consider the effect of your words on others. Your words are powerful.  They have the power to hurt or to inspire.  They can make another person feel loved and valued, or they can make that person feel inadequate and unworthy.  If we all took responsibility for our words, our world would be a very different place indeed.

(Photo courtesy of Pexels)

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