A wordle text of a story I wrote

The Power of Words

This past week lessons abounded in the power of words and the effect they have on people. The Universe has an odd sense of humour and when things like this happen, it’s best to just go with it. Otherwise She gets cranky and the lessons come with bruises.

We’ve all heard the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That is a dead lie and I think we’re all grown up enough to know it. Words do hurt. Sometimes words can leave scars deeper and more painful than any belt or fist.

When I was 12 years old, I picked up a discarded copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’ve always been an eclectic reader so I picked it up and read it. This book was the first book that made me realize just how powerful words were. Disturbed, I went to a teacher who tried to explain that the book was simply enduring. I didn’t understand so I went to the library.

The library happened to be having a reading by an author whose name I no longer remember. I walked up to the author after he was done and shyly asked about Lee’s book. I didn’t understand how it could affect me so powerfully.

The author smiled at me and said, “writers craft words. We use them to build cities or to kill nations. Each word we use has its place and time. Words have power” (yes, I’m paraphrasing since I don’t remember exactly). I do remember the phrase, “words have power.” It’s stuck with me ever since. As a child in a powerless situation (I was the victim of abuse); to be able to hold power in my hands, in my mind was intoxicating. I went home and recreated those stories, those songs that I loved. I learned my art through mimicry. I would use the style of Pink Floyd to write a story about a princess and a dragon, the style of Harper Lee to write a love story, I even mimicked Robin Williams at one point with mixed success. From this imitation grew my own style over years and years of putting words on paper. A style as much a part of me as my own skin.

Today I’m well aware of the power that writers wield but I’m even more aware of the power that everyone has with the words they use. I was walking through a mall when I heard a parent tell their child, “you’re being stupid.” I was shocked that a parent would say that to their child but when I looked back, the parent carried on as though nothing happened. The child, though, gave me a look of shame that I will never forget. That parent has no clue of the impact of that casual phrase they threw out. The child will never forget, sadly.

Casual hurts are tossed out all the time and we don’t realize it. A teen girl refers to herself as a “ho” and her boyfriend as her “pimp” (overheard at a bus stop), a friend tells another friend they’re an idiot, a parent tells their child they’re stupid. We use these phrases and words casually and never think twice about the impact. Yet each word lands like a blow and leaves its mark.

I’ve been known to spend days trying to find the perfect word. Other writers will spend weeks or even months just to get that word that sets the tone. Do we really think that the words we say to each other has less importance? It’s time we stopped using words as weapons and started using them to build each other up.

 

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