I believe words hurt. “Sticks and Stone can break my bones but words could never hurt me.” These are words we have all heard growing up. I believe they are deceptive and misleading. Working as a first grade teacher I see so many times when words are so hurtful and can crush the strongest soul. Words are so much more profound and violent than being hit. I believe bruises go away but words stay forever.
Most fights, divorces, and abuse all start from one word. Life starts from a single word, plus or minus. It is amazing that words have such an enormous effect on the way we treat each other. From war to peace it all starts with a single word.
I remember growing up in a divorced home with a mother that was not only physically abusive but verbally abusive as well. The black and purple marks went away with time. The scars healed and slowly disappeared. I have the occasional scare that brings back a memory of a time that a prisoner on death row should not have endured. But what I remember the most is the words that were said to me everyday. “You are worthless, I wish you were never born, you are extremely stupid, you were a mistake.” These are the scars though invisible they are embedded deeper than a bruise that to this day still have not successfully healed. When I begin to feel that I have forgiven and forgotten these scars they resurface like a volcano waiting to erupt.
I look in the mirror each morning as I prepare for my day. If I look to hard I will here those words again. It is as if she was standing right there in front of me screaming them over and over again. I tell myself each day, I am worth a lot and I have the most amazing family and career to prove it. I can do anything I want regardless of who or what stands in my way.
Words live-forever and when you are told everyday of your life what you are not, regardless of the potential that unseen deep inside you. One starts to believe the words are daggers into your soul and those daggers must be the truth. Somewhere you find the strength to continue each day. I believe without a few teachers in my life telling me what great thing I would become if I let the pain of ill words go. I would go on pretending I never believed the words that were told. In truth I never believed the words of those two adults that saw the potential inside of me. The damage was already done to many days had gone by being told negative information to change is a short year my way of thinking.
The rest of my short childhood was spent pretending all was perfect and avoiding any emotional contact form adults. I have been told by so many people psychologist to school counselors, “It is all in your head.” I now say YES IT IS! It will always be in my head. Words have a way to impact everything we do and how others interrupt us.
I believe if we all have kinder words it would be a better place to live, raise children and to be at peace not only with ourselves but also with all humankind. I believe it my obligation and the reason why I became a teacher is, if I can change the words in a single child’s head I have done what I was born to do.
It is important for each of us to ask ourselves: “What words am I saying and how are they affecting those around me?” I ask you to be conscious of the words you say to a child; those words will stay with children forever!
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.