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If You Can't Say Anything Nice--How Words Are A Weapon

Updated on February 9, 2012
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Once Upon A Time--A Story In The Bible

This story is found in the book of Judges in the Bible.

Two tribes, the Ephraimites and the Gileadites, are having a great battle. The Gileadites end up winning the battle and set up a blockade across a river to catch the fleeing Ephraimites. The Gileadite guards would ask those coming across the bridge, "Are you friend or foe?" Of course, the Ephraimites would say that they were friend, because they knew that if they answered with the other choice, they would be killed. But the Gileadites had a way to tell the difference between themselves and the Ephraimites. A sentry would point to the river and ask the person crossing what it was called. The word that they had to say was "Shibboleth". But the Ephraimites had no "sh" sound in their language. They simply used the "s" sound. Once the Gileadite heard the "s" sound, the Ephraimite would meet his untimely end--all because of his language.

We can assume from this that language is a weapon.

What Can Language Do?

Language can do a lot of things. It can bring you up or put you down. It can fix things or mess things up. It can also help you be part of society in more ways that you might think. So let's break this down.

Language Can Bring You Up Or Down

There is an old Saturday Night Live sketch with this character who has a lot of self-esteem issues and always ends with the character talking to himself in a mirror about all the positive things he is. The idea that comes from Saturday Night Live is that this is pathetic and really ridiculous. But that is a valid method to really help you feel better about yourself. When you have several people tell you "You're really good at {blank}", you start to believe it yourself. But it can work both ways. When someone says "You can't do {blank}" or "You suck at {blank}", you start to believe that too. When those things are said to you and about you, you start to believe it and it can really bring you down. Can a knife do that to you as easily?

Language Can Fix And Mess Things Up

This one is pretty common. There is a huge fight and people are using their words to cut into each other to bring each other down. The fighters are pulling everything out of their vocabulary arsenal to do more damage than the other person. Eventually, they both walk away. Imagine that you are one of the fighters. You feel anger, hatred, and annoyance. You can also be frustrated. But, there are further options. You can simply go your merry old way, release the anger and try to understand the other person. Than you can reach out and calmly speak about it. Tada! The friendship, or other type of relationship, is fixed! If you decide to go the other way, harboring those toxic emotions, then you can really mess things up and probably lose a valuable friend for life. A gun can take people away from each other, but not as neatly as language.

Language Is A Huge Part Of Culture

The language you speak really is a large part of the culture that you're in. I will give you an example by referring to the Deaf community. The Deaf community have their own language--Sign Language. Sign Language is not a signed version of the major language of the country there are in; it is a language in itself. This language affects how the people who speak it interact. Those that speak in a sign language are very visual--they need to see the signs clearly and must maintain eye contact and not have things that can distort the facial features (because the face is very important in sign language). They don't view themselves as having a disability because it doesn't really cause them any harm--for example, just think of a Spanish speaker living in the United States. That Spanish speaker is not disabled for speaking a different language, although there are difficulties. This is the same with a speaker of sign language. Perspective also changes. Those who speak ASL primarily say that a person who is hard of hearing can actually hear quite well (because that person wouldn't have much need for ASL, so that person can't "hear" (understand) ASL). Yes, this is only one group of people in society. But your language has affected you, as well. It kept you understanding was is acceptable behavior and conversation and what is not. As to the extent of how much, you might want to look into the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, although this hypothesis has pretty much been disproved. In all, though, language does a lot.

What You Can Do To Control Your Weapon

Even a three year old has this weapon--"You're a poopy-head!" Two year olds can understand the power of language, although they are not too frequent in using it as a weapon just yet--The "No" Phase shows their understanding of the power they have. But you stop restraining yourself the older you get. You know what you should say, but it doesn't mean that you don't say it anyway. And mother's have been dealing with this for years, always telling their children, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

You can start to control your words, but it takes a while. And yes, those words can affect you and the effects have been tested before by a man named Dr. Masaru Emoto. But here are some ideas to reign in your weapon.

  1. Follow Your Mother's Adage. Really. If you can't say anything nice, don't say it! If you think someone is really ugly, just don't say it. If you think that someone is a b*%$@ for cutting you off in traffic, just swallow your voice. Just be kind and sincere, understand that everyone has bad days just like everyone has good days and no one wants to be badmouthed.
  2. Give Compliments! If you think someone has a beautiful voice, tell them. Even if you hear their voice all the time, just let them know. You will get them to feel better about themselves, and they will start to return the favor. So, instead of using your weapon, you turn it into a very powerful tool.
  3. Don't Gossip. Yes, this sounds a lot like #1 and it was already mentioned, but it's important. Gossiping not only gets people to berate others in a group, but it can spread some pretty untrue or hurtful rumors. So what if that girl is pregnant with her boyfriends' baby even though she's married? It's not your problem, and what if the same thing happened to you? (Don't start thinking that you aren't dumb enough for that. Anything can happen, and this is just an example. Tweak it so that it is something you may do if you need to). What if you found out your are pregnant even though you still live with your husband and it's not his? Would you want people to be understanding and not be mean to you? Probably yes.

They are only three tips, but starting small is essential for changing habits. Once you have these things down, you will be able to recognize other situations that you use language as a weapon and you can change it. Us Hubbers have a type of mastery at language. We use language as a tool or as a weapon easily when we are writing. We use it so much, that we forget that what we have is a weapon; and when that happens, we are no different than the Gileadites who distinguished their enemies because of language.

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    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      A good reminder here Cammie that negative words can carry lethal results. The negativity can remain in our heads long after the conversation has ended. Well done, vote up

    • Cammiebar profile image
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      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Christy,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading! Words can be pretty powerful and I'm always in awe about it. All the best

    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 5 years ago

      lol@poopy-head...haven't heard that one in ages. This is a wonderful article. I liked how you used the biblical example between the two tribes and how one was able to tell who a friend or foe was.

      I think you're right about a lot of what you say in this hub, but few people follow it. Gossip? Gossip is how most people interact and be social. So and so did this or this happened to so and so.

      It's part of the way us humans tell stories. As for saying someone is ugly...well, that's just plain immature. Kids do that crap cause they don't know any better, but it's amazing how many adults do the same thing and know better.

      If someone's attitude is ugly, I'll mention that because that's something they have power to change.

      Words and language is very powerful. They can heal, they can bring joy, and unfortunately, they can also tear apart and destroy. Oh, I seriously didn't mean for that to rhyme.

      Once again, great job on giving us all something to think about.

      By the way, a smile and a compliment always goes much further.

      Voted up and awesome, interesting, and useful.

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      It's always amazing how often I hear grown adults say very immature things to other people. But there is a big difference between calling someone out on something and just being plan ol' mean. But that rhyme was pretty awesome. Thanks for stopping by again, Rabbit!

    • greatparenting profile image

      greatparenting 5 years ago from philadelphia, pa and corolla, nc

      It's so easy to say things we then regret. But it's impossible to take them back once they're out there so you are totally right about the power of words to help and heal.

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you for your comment. It takes just a little willpower to stop saying mean things and it can really do a lot when you say something nice. All the best to you!

    • DFiduccia profile image

      DFiduccia 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      You did a great job of turning an amazingly good graphic design into a meaningful hub.It's nice to watch the growth of another Upstate New Yorker.

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      I wrote the hub before I found the graphic design. It just fit so well. It's great to have some support, so thanks for reading! I really like your hubs as well!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      The power of words! You wrote this up so well from beginning to end. Good information and reminders for all. Voted up.

    • SonQuioey10 profile image

      Toni Northern 5 years ago from Williamston NC

      Words as a great weapon, as you've shown, it's been evident throughout history. Great Hub.

    • Vegas Elias profile image

      Vegas Elias 5 years ago from Mumbai

      Hi, you are the first person to follow my hubs and you are lucky to me.

      Keep writing.

      Best regards,

      Francis

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for reading and for saying that I'm lucky! I can't wait to read your articles.

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