This a piece a wrote after doing an assignment in college about how society communicates.
|THE CULPABILITY OF WORDS|
The connection of words to emotions and actions always amazes me. One simple word or a combination of words can make you dance, make you cry, make you tired or bring your world to a screeching halt. Certain words can make you believe you could run five miles in ten minutes. There are others that can make you believe you’re incapable of doing anything.
A statement that I have heard many times over the years is that “you need to think before you speak”. Many times we don’t. There are also times when putting too much thought into our words can squelch our creativity or change what we mean altogether. In general we do need to think before we speak, especially if there are strong emotions attached to the subject at hand and we have yet to figure them out for ourselves. There are also times we need to say how we are feeling. Often I write down what I feel I need to say because I get tongue tied if I’m uncomfortable saying something, or afraid that
my words are not important enough to be said. I think this is a familiar feeling to many.
The common psychological view at this time states that we cannot make anybody feel anything. I beg to differ; How a person responds to what we say to them is what is in their control. However, we are emotional beings and our past and present experiences can change we feel about words. For example; I cringe when I am in a grocery store and a child is acting inappropriately and their parents tell them they
are “bad“. Their behavior may be atrocious, but a child is not bad and often they cannot differentiate who they are from how they are behaving. Words we may think are perfectly innocent can cause severe and irrevocable damage. If a child is told often enough they are “bad”, they can start feeling like no matter what they do they are still “bad”. Another example is if a pre-teen/adolescent is told continually
they are “fat”, or more often than not “chubby”, these words in combination with media and society can begin a life long struggle with an eating disorder.
Even an adult who has the capability to understand words, yet they are told that they are stupid or inadequate can store this information in their subconscious and begin to believe it. Changing what we do not even know exists (like words in the subconscious) can take time. It’s WORTH it; I think that each and every one of us needs to look at the amazing power of words and the power they give us. Words can also make someone’s day or even their week. Words have been known to separate friends and families, to destroy relationships and to start wars and riots.
We have had so much violence in this society it has wrought confusion over our words, causing fear in some of us, to speak at all. We are taught as children not to talk to strangers, and as a child this is a good idea, but we have this direction as adults as well. It is rare to see neighbors saying “hi” to one another, many of us don’t even know our neighbors. We rarely have “block parties “or neighborhood
get-togethers. Our fears have paralyzed us. The term “road rage” is more common than “block party. Have we totally lost our ability to communicate? The simple words “I’m sorry” could rectify situations that could otherwise end up in a huge conflict.
I believe we do need to talk to strangers; after all, our best friends were strangers once. I am not suggesting we put ourselves in dangerous situations or ignore our gut instinct. I have had many strange looks in the grocery store, or just walking down the street when I smile at a stranger and say “Hi, how are you today?” I have also had a lot of smiles in return. Maybe we have to start small. Everyone has to start somewhere. Talking with our neighbors, employees and employers can open the doors to
communication that have been closed and locked for a long time. We cannot let this fear of speaking out loud continue. I think writing is a great way to begin the process of “word practice”.
Learning to get to know others can bring joy into our own and others lives and bring aboutunderstanding of other cultures and religions as well as other people in general. It is an important, (even if fearful) step for individuals and society to take. Another ‘myth’ that has been instilled in our minds is, if you disagree with someone, you have nothing to talk about. While this is not only untrue, it keeps us from learning from others and the world we live in. A phrase that I have learned and which has helped me to maintain many of my friendships is ‘agree to disagree’. What a boring world we would live in if everyone were the same. Sharing our individuality could bridge many gaps.
We live in a world that has become either loud and angry, or silent and violent. Working together and talking together, we could accomplish so much. I know there are some people that think this is an unimportant or simply redundant subject, I don’t agree. We may be hesitant about how heated a conversation about politics,
sports, values or religion will get, at least there will be conversation.
Lastly, sometimes we do need to think about the culpability of our words and the positive or negative effect they can have on us and others. Perhaps we can change those words to allow each of us to communicate and walk away from each other with a little more knowledge about our fellow human beings. Talk to each other and listen to one another. Words can travel huge distances, and you don’t have to pay for the gas. With the prices at the pump today we will go a lot farther with words.