I always write with music playing in the background and this morning was no different, except when it hit cowboy poet Baxter Black with his spoken word poem “Just Words.” Like a bolt of lightning, I knew what I would write about today. I would write about how we all use words and how can they push people to greatness or destroy them. Baxter Black put several lines in that poem that made me think about my use of “just words.”
“We often underestimate the value of words.”
“We often underestimate the power of words.”
(From Baxter Black Poem, “Just Words”)
Throughout the poem, Baxter quotes many familiar sayings that we have heard or used. From “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” to “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” you hear the positivity invoked by those, but what was most powerful, the negativity he invoked when I heard these words said by too many of us, “you’ll never amount to anything.”
As a writer, there is something powerful about words. Words can incite emotions of love, hate, or even indifference depending on the audience, but words can also build someone up or tear them down. So, as a writer and a human being, care must be taken in the words we write because we are seen as authorities in our chosen subjects and our words can cause pain if we are not careful.
How many times have you said something to someone you care about and as soon as those words came out, you knew you had just cut the other person to their core? I came very close this morning, and if it were not for my Mother, I would have hurt Dad with my words. And, I can think of many more examples where my words have hurt someone I loved because I was angry and lashing out.
The words we use are not “just words.” They can be bullets in a gun used to injure or used as a helping hand to support. In talking to a dear friend recently, she replays the negative words from a significant individual in her life when facing difficulties or overwhelming situations. Those words, “you are the ugliest person I know, and you aren’t worthy. You don’t deserve to be happy,” are what plays in her mind during those difficult moments. Not only can we hurt people with our words in an instant, but those words can have a long-lasting effect on us and make future relationships difficult.
Not only can we hurt people with our words in an instant, but those words can have a long-lasting effect on us and make future relationships difficult.
Have you ever said or written anything you wish you could take back because those words were hurtful to someone you cared about?
What about words that we post on social media? How many times have we seen words that from one person were used to cause another pain? Every time I see something negative directed at someone in particular on social media, I worry that the stones cast could push some fragile soul over the edge and cause their demise. Again, the words we post on social media are not “just words.”
So, as a writer, I challenge other writers and myself to understand the power of our words and make sure we use them to evoke love, compassion, and support instead of anger, hate, or hurt.
Knowing that words, “like burrs under a blanket, like nails in a coffin, like a single match in a sea of gasoline,” can destroy lives and relationships, I hope that my writing brings people pleasure instead of tearing them asunder.
What is your challenge with your words because we now know they are not, “just words,” anymore?
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