The Negative Influence of Words

Julie Schmidt

There’s a saying that goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Everyone is repeatedly told this to the point that it is a maxim that is ingrained in our culture. Somehow, we have adopted this phrase and have decided that it’s something that people should strive to follow. People are led to believe that physical pain stings and is allowed to hurt, but words, when unmercifully targeted at someone, should not impact a person at all. The underlying meaning of this unfortunate saying has crept into every aspect of people’s lives. The intention is that people should be strong and become the better person in bullying situations, but the unheeded truth is that words do hurt, and they have deeper consequences than people can imagine. Generations have kept reciting this saying to their kids because they believe it’s important knowledge, but it often seems that no one realizes how incredibly mistaken they have all been. Through the years, use of this phrase has become a motto of mainstream society. Think about it. It’s wrong to tell someone that hurtful words should not affect him or her in the least. Of course, physical injuries hurt, but mental and verbal jabs can wound a person just as badly. When someone constantly insults another person and says they were just joking, it still hurts.

If we as a society enforce the notion that words don’t hurt people, then we are enforcing the notion that it is fine to make fun of others. One of the biggest examples of this is within schools, especially with name-calling. The word “gay” is used all of the time. Being gay is somehow turned into a way to insult a guy’s masculinity, but nobody ever thinks about how people trying to come out must feel when they hear these words being carelessly thrown around. On top of hurting someone’s feelings, words can affect even those who are within an earshot. People have to start realizing the impact that words have on others. In addition to causing stress and fear, words can cause serious harm. While some may pretend to brush off injurious remarks, some people take the words to heart and can even begin to change certain aspects of their life. These changes can become more and more consequential and could potentially lead to depression, bulimia, anorexia, or even suicide. On the outside, people tend to act like the words don’t bother them because that’s what they have been taught, but derogatory comments can internally wound people, even in some cases leading to life-endangering situations.

Buddha once said, “If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” It is this philosophy that should be employed in everyday life. People should remember this quote because all too often people have attacked others with false information, unkind words, and most of the time it is uncalled for. These impulsive verbal assaults are the root to so many complications in life because once it’s said, there’s no taking it back. If people took a minute to think of repercussions, countless people, children to adults, would be spared from the damage of simple, yet harsh words.