The power of a word



Words hurt.  I know the old saying about ‘sticks and stones’ but the truth of the matter is:  words do hurt.  I have a memory as a child that someone had told me I was an ugly duckling.  I was crying and I told my mother what was said.  At that moment I truly believed I was an ugly duckling and I would never grow into the beautiful swan.  I was a kid, I was awkward.  My mother’s reaction shocked me.  She was outraged, she was furious.  She wanted to know who had said such a horrible thing to her child.  I smartly refuse to give up the name.  I have since forgotten everything except the words.  The name of the person was unimportant.  My reaction to it was not.  I was devastated.  My mother told me forcefully that I was not an ugly duckling, I was beautiful.  I would continue to be beautiful throughout my life.  Never mess with a mom.

Jump ahead a few years to high school.  A fellow classmate came up to me and asked me if I wanted to get rid of 10 ugly pounds of useless fat.  Ever a sucker I said yes.  She told me to cut off my head.  As I have grown older I have learned that comments like this are meant to hurt and they are meant to be funny to those people who think it’s hilarious to watch someone else’s pain.  I have learned that the speaker is more important than the words in incidents like this.  At the time I was still at that awkward age where we are unsure of ourselves.  Being called ugly didn’t help.

I remember these two instances because it’s something I’ve had to fight my whole life.  These were words spoken in anger.  I should not have given them a moment’s thought and yet here I am several decades later still reliving the pain they caused all those years ago.

Fortunately I am also able to remember the positive comments that have been made to me over the years.  I remember the first time a boyfriend told me I was pretty.  Pretty heady stuff!  I can remember an essay of mine being held up in English class as the correct way to research a paper.  The teacher expounded on the amount of time I had obviously devoted to this brilliant essay.  I was suitably chagrined because I had only written it the night before.  My friend knew, the teacher never did.  I remember in University being told that my performance the night before was inspired and brilliant.  More heady stuff.  I remember a boss telling me that he was amazed at the way I had handled a difficult customer.  Words do make a difference.

I hope that in my travels I have said more words that are positive in nature than negative.  I would like to think that my words have inspired and cajoled, comforted and amused.  We communicate every day with each other and our words matter.  How we say them matters.  How we present them matters.  We matter.  Choose your words as carefully as you choose the ingredients for a fine meal.  It will make everything taste better.

12 thoughts on “The power of a word

  1. emilievardaman

    Words do hurt. Look at the number (not huge, thankfully) of kids today who kill themselves over teasing and harassment.
    Some kids are just mean. Why? I was raised to be respectful and kind, but maybe those mean kids get treated in a mean way at home.
    I have lost my temper a few times and said mean things, but in those rare instances, I apologize and let the person know I was speaking from anger. Not a good excuse, but at least I do apologize.
    Take these words today: I recognize a beautiful person when I encounter one – even over the web. And I find you beautiful.


  2. Jill Dunbar

    I hope that you will always remember that you are one heck of an amazing lady – because you ARE!!!

    Peace and Love,

    Jill XO


  3. authorleighmichaels

    Words are so important, so powerful. I don’t know why more people don’t realize that. The thing about it is, words can be untrue, yet still hold so much power, as in your cases in childhood. I hope now you know that you are beautiful and strong.


  4. dflorack

    I, too, have horrible memories from childhood – especially High School – I was terribly shy, and that was the worst time for kids picking on each other. I went through it, too, with my sons. My oldest was more resilient – he became the class clown and eventually drew a crowd of kids who thought he was hilarious and wanted more of his antics – that was his way of coping. It’s terrible the things kids do to other kids – they always go for the ones who are different in some way. I think it’s been that way from the beginning of time, and it will likely continue forever (even with the anti-bullying campaigns today). It’s a shame. I grew up feeling overly-sensitive – certain that others were looking at me critically and judging. I’ve grown past most of it. Turning 50 helped that for some reason. I have more of an “I don’t care” attitude now. I am who I am, and if others don’t like it, too bad. You are right, though – you can remember those awful things that were said, and you feel like you’re 12 all over again.


  5. oldmainer

    My first grade teacher told me I would never be more then a garbage man. You don’t forget those things. You can only choose not to let others define you. Kind of hard when you are 7 years old. In later years, I would always say to myself, “consider the source”. Today I think we are all beautiful and different, like a vase of flowers, and a vase of weeds. Look and you will see the beauty.


    1. quiall Post author

      I feel sorry for those in authority who abuse a child verbally.. It is abuse and you rose above it. That speaks volumes about you. So many cannot find the strength.


  6. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

    when I worked at the rape crisis center, I think I heard more memories of words than the actual inflicting of pain…
    words are energy that one can hurt or heal…I work on the healing ones as I know the life hurt ones gave
    as I remember the words of my past more than the physical abuses… I was told once I was void of human emotions because I didn’t seem to let my abuse bother me…when I tried to explain I never to on the blame for it, I was thought even more cold…
    for years I believed that…I had no human emotions… one day i realized I just didn’t need to show them, it gave people the opening to use more words against me…
    Your post is another thinking beyond the memory post….your words seem to put thoughts in perspective
    Thank you for being you…..
    Take Care…You Matter…



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