Words can cut deeper than any blade. Words can punch right through any armor, right to your very soul, much easier than any bullet. Words can ruin your day faster than any bad weather or traffic jam. Words can also be the wind in your feathers, lifting you up above the troubles of the world. One kind word can warm you to the core. One word can make your day, your week, your month, your year.
If you don’t believe me, or you want to believe what I’m saying but you need proof…watch a class full of students. Near the end of class, hopes build. Excitement courses through the room. Maybe, they think. Maybe the teacher won’t say it… Then, just before the bell rings, the teacher says one word. This one word destroys all the hope and excitement the class has built up. This word that will darken the whole rest of their day is this: homework.
Poetry – which is nothing more than words on a page – is widely acknowledged as one of mankind’s main ways of communicating thoughts, feeling, memories…whatever is on the poet’s mind. Exceptional poets can wring tears or laughter from a reader by their words – not even spoken words, but by words written down and stored in a book until the reader opens the cover and reads the emotions inside.
Songs are simply words put to music. If words cannot hurt us, why is it that a song you heard while dancing with someone who later hurts you causes almost physical pain? If words cannot bring a desperate person a ray of hope, how is it that the joy in an artist’s voice and the wonderful words he or she sings can do that very thing? Words are how we communicate. They bind us to each other or fling us apart. They can bring us to life or tear us down. They can eat away at us, or build us up. They affect us in so many ways.
A friend’s words can haunt you for the rest of your life. An argument can stalk behind you in the shadows, rising up in your mind whenever it sees an opportunity. Guilt, anger, fear, love, friendship, joy, satisfaction, and pain are only words. But these words carry the weight of what people feel, what they think.
So maybe it’s not the words themselves that hurt us, but something else. Maybe it is the people who say them. Maybe it is how they are presented; whether the words are spat at us with contempt or whispered comfortingly into our ear. Maybe it is not the sounds themselves. Maybe it is not the letters, the syllables, the language. Maybe what hurts us, heals us, makes our day or ruins our week…maybe it’s not the actual words we hear or say. Maybe it’s the feelings, the thoughts, the pain or compassion that those words carry that affect us. Maybe it is the channeled anger or fear or simple joy in a poem or song that touches our souls. So maybe it’s not words that hurt us.
Maybe it’s the people who say them. Maybe it’s not the word “happy” that makes us so, but the absolute freedom of the artist who sings those dream-filled syllables. Maybe words don’t hurt us, but their meanings definitely do.