The Power of Words

By: Ann Nelson

OK, I admit it. I listen to NPR. That fact may say more about my age than anything else – but that is an entirely different blog!

But back to NPR…NPR once broadcast of series of essays entitled “This I Believe.” The essays were sometimes written by famous or renowned people. Often, they were ordinary people with an extraordinary ability to communicate a thought, concept or belief. They all very clearly illustrate my belief … I believe in the power of words.

If you doubt that words are powerful, just witness the anguish caused by teens and even tweens bullying with words sent via text messages or posted on social media. A young person can become distraught over a misspoken word or biting remark by a BFF. I cannot even imagine the pain that would be inflicted by the sort of dirty campaigns that some kids have had to endure at the hands of their peers. The relative anonymity of the internet allows the bullying to continue far too long and the message to be distributed far too quickly and widely.

Recently, we have seen how words have spurred action. A news report on the climate-induced famine in Madagascar prompted more than 22,000 listeners to donate more than $2.7 million to famine relief. Hearing the words that our neighbors and fellow human beings are suffering has encouraged more and more of us who are able to become involved, to donate our time and our money to help relieve the pain we read those words about.

However, all too often lately, we have seen how words have been used to cause pain, disruption and anguish. I’m not referring to the misspoken word that is hurtful or the thoughtless comment that crushes. More and more it seems, words are being used to wreak havoc, cause disruptions and encourage forceful behavior.

There is no doubt that words spoken at a rally, and before, encouraged those with sincere belief in the speaker, to march on the U. S. Capitol with violence, causing destruction and deaths. Words did that!

There are more examples than I wish to cite of words used to bolster, inspire and support damaging actions. The past couple of years have been tough. We are all dealing with a new sort of reality, and we all cope with these things differently.

Let’s all try to use our words carefully and in the kindest way possible. Say “please” and “thank you” whenever you can – even if you have to force it a bit. Smile under that mask and the words will sound even kinder.

When you read someone else’s words, be careful that you are reading a trusted, informed source and not just someone who posted it online. I call the internet the “World’s Bathroom Wall.” Read things you find there accordingly!

But most of all, remember that your words — spoken, written or posted – can and will have an impact on others. Make sure that impact is positive

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