It recently dawned on me that I didn’t get the memo. It seems a complete paradigm shift has occurred. At some point in time, folks have apparently decided to turn over to words the power to completely control their lives. If someone says something they disagree with, they can’t control their emotions. The rest of us get treated to the spectacle of temper tantrums in adults that are worthy of three-year olds.
Why in the world would anyone give such power to words? When these folks hear something that hurts their feelings or with which they disagree, they apparently can no longer function as normal adults. They lash out, using words that would, in previous generations, result in a serious washing of the mouth with a bar of vile tasting soap. They foster more hate and division than the original words could ever hope for.
Words are just that – words. How we use words is what is important. We can use them to create great literature, poetry, and songs. We can use them to make inspiring speeches, or empower others to seek out new discoveries and ideas. We can use them to console others when tragedy strikes, or to comfort those who are sick or dying. Words allow us to express what is in our hearts. As an educator, I use words to challenge my students to engage in critical and creative thinking as I ask them for new solutions to entrenched problems, always keeping in mind the value of the individual. We can use words to motivate ourselves to become better people, to heal divisions between people who probably have more in common than they do different. Or, unfortunately, on all sides of the political spectrum, we can hear and see words used to foster hate, division, and animosity. Those of us who disagree with hateful speeches can follow the new philosophy of doing nothing because our feelings are hurt – or we can stand up and overwhelm that hate speech with words of tolerance, patience, and understanding. I don’t know about anyone else but I choose the latter option.