When you were younger you too heard the phrase "sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me". It was a catchy phrase and a great way for us to defend ourselves against any and all verbal attacks led by our playground nemesis. Unfortunately the truth always was and continues to be the exact opposite of what this popular idiom argues. Words do in fact hurt and in some cases they don't just break bones, they take lives and souls. After studying the history of this country and the various bloody conflicts that leave their mark on world history, there is no doubt in my mind that language has claimed the lives of more people than anything else. History shows us that a desire for power has encouraged many leaders and scholars alike to use the power of language to convince others of falsehoods which have sparked wars, racism, chattel slavery, sexism, xenophobia, religious conflicts, homophobia, and the like.
Words of hate fall upon the human heart and soul like acid rain. Hit hard and often by these drops of venom, our souls begin to absorb self-hatred or hatred of others. Therefore, the young dark skin girl who is told that Black is ugly longs for blue eyes and lighter skin; the young white male who is indoctrinated with racist ideology grows to hate people of color; the woman who is verbally abused by her husband begins to hate herself; and the Christian child who is told that they are an abomination cannot find comfort in the presence of God nor family and looks for love in the alley was. Finally, as we have seen with the recent cases of suicide among young adults, anti-gay remarks drive some of us to commit suicide.
We use words every day, yet we seldom stop to think of how powerful the things that roll off of our tongues can be. Our words have the ability to shape the world and the lives of our neighbors and sometimes rather than to build each other up we use words to tear each other down. The power of life and death rests within our own tongues. Speak so that others may live, speak so that others may be healed and more importantly we must question the truth behind the words we hear. For if we do not, we ourselves may die not ever knowing how it felt to truly live.