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Word Wise: Words Can Hurt for a Lifetime

Updated on October 20, 2015
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Words Last a Lifetime

Let me share a childhood story about how words that seemed meaningless to someone else completely shattered my self-esteem in an instant.

I was about eight years old. Some relatives came to visit. I was minding my own business, on the floor, in the corner, putting a puzzle together when I overheard two adults engaged in light chatter. I happened to glance over at them and saw that they were looking at me when I heard Adult #1 say to Adult #2, “She’s turning out to be a pretty little girl.” And then I heard Adult #2 say, “Well, don’t tell her that or she might believe you.” Then the two of them giggled and went on to talk about other things. Little did they realize they had just shattered me to pieces, much like the puzzle I was working so hard to put together.

As a child, I relied on adults to guide me through life and I processed the comment made by Adult #2 to mean I was ugly. From that moment on, whenever anyone complimented me, I would politely say thank you, but behind my response was a damaged little girl who felt like people were just complimenting me to be nice. To this day, you don’t see me in a lot of photographs, because I don’t want to “mess up” the photo with my ugly mug.

Resolved But Not Settled

It's kind of like what happens when people lose over 100 pounds and still feel overweight. It's kind of like what happens when you hammer nails into a wall and then when you pull out the nails, the holes are still there. The hurt stays even when the issue is resolved.

Friends, after reading this confession, please don’t respond with, “But, Marlene, you’re so pretty!” Seriously, please don’t do that. My brain still processes such comments to mean, “You’re ugly, but I just want to say something nice to you.”

Yeah, I’ve got issues and I’m working on them all.

I share this confession with you to say that words are powerful. What we say to someone today could affect how that person feels for a lifetime. Recently, I heard a mother telling her child he was “stupid.” I felt bad for the child, because I know from personal experience that there is a possibility of that child growing up all their life feeling unintelligent and uninspired to do great things.

Note: I’m not claiming that parents are the sole reason for a child’s mal-adjustment. Certainly, other environmental interactions, such as schools, playground activities, and sports play a critical role as well. Parents who use un-inspirational words merely contribute to the issue of a child’s discontent.

A Word About Respect and Directing Children

When you have respect for someone, your words tend to be more positive, consequently, people tend to respond to you in a favorable way.

Respect and how it relates to words

If your child respects you, he or she has a desire to follow your directions, good or bad, so you must be careful about the words you use to direct them.

If children respect the parents who direct them, they will take the direction to heart. So when parents are berating and belittling children, the children may grow up with little self-respect. They may have trouble properly identifying their worth and character. Parents who have children who are lazy and mal-adjusted should take a moment to think about the words he or she may have said to their children over the course of their lives. In doing so, parents may find that they have spoken words that cause their children to feel uninspired or unwilling to assimilate.

Parents who have children who shine and do well, deserve a pat on the back for the encouraging words they use to build up and polish their children.

Disrespect and how it relates to words

If your child disrespects you, he or she may not want to listen to you or follow any directions you give them.

If children disrespect the parents who direct them, it is likely the children will throw the parents' directions out the window, disregard them, and rise in spite of what the parents say to them. It is still likely, and most probable that these children may fall in spite of disregarding the parents' directions as they try to make it through life on their own accord.

Words are Powerful

My mother use to say, “If you can’t say anything nice to someone, don’t say anything at all.” I suspect a lot of parents say that to their children.

Biblical people are commanded to speak kind words to one another.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

– Ephesians 4:29 New International Version

Now, as an adult looking back at the day I heard those adults talking, I suspect they did not have malicious intensions. I suspect they were simply two people chit-chatting and joking around, not realizing I was there, hearing and taking it all in. I respected them, so their words were held in the highest regard. They didn’t realize a little girl was processing their words and assimilating those words into a form that would become the very essence of that little girl’s being.

So I caution people to be careful what is said to and around others. You never know who is listening and how they are processing what you say.

Words are powerful tools. Positive words build people up. Negative words tear people down. Be mindful, be aware, and use words wisely.

Disclaimer About Words

I’m not a psychologist. I’ve never trained to be a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. The observation I share here is based solely on personal experience. I share my story and experience with the hope that you may become more aware of the power of words and realize how you have the power to use words for the goodness of mankind.

Watch This Inspirational Video About Words

People have watched the following video over 3,356, 246 times. It is an inspirational message about words and how words are powerful enough to help you achieve your dreams.

In this video, award winning actor, producer, singer, and songwriter Will Smith shares how words affect the outcome of everything we do. Smith says, "There's no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts from Plan A."

Watch this short video and be inspired to accomplish your lifelong goals.

Your Words And Thoughts Have Physical Power

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    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 2 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello DREAM ON! I absolutely enjoy reading your comments. You inspire me. I think I will watch the video again for a personal reboot.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 2 months ago

      I watched your video about your words and thoughts have physical power with Will Smith and I absolutely loved it. I have always believed and I am so motivated and in awe when people reinforce what everyone should understand and believe to live a better life. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 2 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello DREAM ON. I can say from experience that words have a great impact on us. I am sorry about what happened between you and your brother. It always hurts more when it is family members. I am glad you found a way to raise your self esteem and glad you know I care.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 2 months ago

      You explained so much in your hub. Words do hurt and I have my own personal experiences where my own brother thought he was better than me and if anyone in school asks if we are related you don't know me. It hurts me to this day. I looked up to my big brother and I couldn't forget what he said. I found ways of building my own self esteem as I keep trying to forgive him. Thank you for sharing and caring.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 4 months ago from Northern California, USA

      You are so right, simplehappylife. Parenting can be really hard. I want to be the parent that my children can rely on, but at the same time I want to be like a friend. The two don't always go hand-in-hand, so most of the time I opt to be a parent who is mindful of my words and how they may be ultimately received.

    • simplehappylife profile image

      SA Williams 4 months ago from Earth

      This is so true. I try to be very mindful of how I communicate with my children (one is 16 yrs old, and the other is 8 yrs old) and how they communicate with me.

      I have no problem self-correcting in front of them or even apologizing for saying something the wrong way. I'm in no way perfect, but my honesty with them has helped us bond even closer. I self-analyze constantly and am always working toward being encouraging instead of discouraging while allowing them plenty of space to express themselves and develop into their own individuality with their own opinions (while remaining respectful of me as well as each other). It's a tough balance to strike at times, but for the most part, it has been great. LOL, parenting can be so hard at times :)

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Thank you, Vellur, for commenting. Through the years, I have come to learn the value of words and how they affect others. My goal in life is to be a positive speaker of words.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 months ago from Dubai

      Words can make or break a relationship; we should be careful how we use them and teach our children too. Great hub, wisdom in your words, thank you for sharing.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 17 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello Rabadi. Thank you for your feedback. And, thank you for following me. I am sure I will enjoy reading your articles as well.

    • Rabadi profile image

      17 months ago from New York

      I agree with your article, a lot of wise words being said, therefore I am now following you, please check out some of my articles :) Thanks

      -Rabadi

    • word55 profile image

      Word 18 months ago from Chicago

      Hi Marlene, this is great sound advice. I really agree with"if you can't say something nice then say nothing at all." It feels so good living via God's Kingdom. I thank God that there is no negativity coming into or going out of my life. Nice video of Will's ideas. At last I live in peace, get my bills paid and have my needs met. I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year and keep selling houses as I will also in the New Year 2016!

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 18 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hi gerimcclym. Thank you for your feedback. You have a very fine hub about affirmative words. I really enjoyed reading it.

    • gerimcclym profile image

      Geri McClymont 18 months ago

      A very powerful article on a very important topic. Words cannot be taken back after they leave our mouths, so we should always consider their impact and think twice before we speak. The video on Will Smith was very inspiring too. Thanks for sharing!

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 18 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello RTalloni. You are a wise person. As a child, I was hurt to hear that I should not be considered pretty. Now, as an adult, I get that the person didn't want me to grow up prideful. That comment, early in my development certainly got the job done. I grew up feeling ugly and felt like people were lying if ever they complimented me. I know better now. Still, I work hard to translate compliments for what they are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 18 months ago from the short journey

      Your willingness to share your experience and what you learned from it is important for yourself and others--thank you. Pretty is as pretty does, and this beautiful. May it help others to be careful of their selfishness in conversation! It's so easy to come across in a way we don't mean, so your example of giving the adults the benefit of the doubt is a great example to hurting people. BTW, my first thought was that the one who said not to tell you how pretty you are said it because she knew doing so could make you prideful…but I was not there to hear it, to see their attitude, etc...nor a little child when I read it. :) So glad to read that you have been recuperating well. Do continue to take care!

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 18 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Thank you, ChitrangadaSharan, for your well-wishes.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 18 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello DDE, I have been away for a while. It is good to come back to see you here. Thank you for reading and for your feedback.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 18 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi MarleneB!

      I was not aware about your health issues. Please do take good care of yourself. I am concerned and I hope and pray for your quick recovery.

      Wish you all the best! Take care!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 18 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You greatly mentioned useful points here. Definitely a worthy post.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 18 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello ChitrangadaSharan. It is good to hear from you. I've been out for a long time. I've had two surgeries and going into a sleep clinic today to find out how I can get a little bit of sleep at night. Anyway, you are right, with regard to children, we must be very careful when talking to them.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 18 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Wonderful hub and excellent advice! Words can certainly scar for life. Therefore we must think twice before saying something. A physical wound can get healed but it is very difficult to get healed if someone's 'words' has caused the hurt. We must be especially careful with the children

      Great hub and nice video.

      It is so nice to read your hub after a long time and I understand it is your 100th hub. Congratulations and wish you all the best!

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 19 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello ladyguitarpicker. I can't tell you how many times I have been hurt by words. They are sharper than knives because they cut through the soul. But, you are so right that we need to love ourselves so that harsh words no longer have the ability to hurt.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 19 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      This is so true and a good lesson we all need. I think my heart was broken from the words people have said. The good news is I continue to prove them wrong. Just love yourself. Stella

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Thank you, Amanda Abbott. Your feedback adds confirmation to the message about how words can have a significant impact on a child's life.

    • Amanda Abbott profile image

      Meredyth Lynne 20 months ago from Los Angeles

      Wow. I love that video. Words are very powerful. People usually don't think of how even one word can change someone else sees the world and themselves in an instant. Your note: "I’m not claiming that parents are the sole reason for a child’s mal-adjustment. Certainly, other environmental interactions, such as schools, playground activities, and sports play a critical role as well. Parents who use un-inspirational words merely contribute to the issue of a child’s discontent." is true, but love begins in the home. If your own parents aren't encouraging you to strive then they'll eventually push you away and get upset with you for not having any respect for them. I know this because I have no respect for mine. So I completely relate to your article. Keep up the good work!

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello manatita44. Your words are always kind and rewarding. I am, indeed, resting right now. I only write when I am inspired to do so and only when the words come naturally. I am living quietly waiting for direction and in the meantime I will enjoy what our Father brings for me to enjoy. Right now, I am enjoying the peacefulness of having the freedom of taking as much time as I need to recuperate from surgery.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 20 months ago from london

      Sweetheart.

      You do not always have to write. Loving oneself can be so meaningful, so profound! Watch the Temple like a Silent witness. Listen to the inner Pilot and act accordingly. I would say that if you are not up to par, then rest. Still, who knows the ways of the Lord? Listen ...!

      " There is always hope for any man, who can prayerfully cry in the morning, and soulfully smile in the evening." -Sri Chinmoy.

      "Be kind, be all sympathy, for each and every Soul, is forced to fight against himself." - Sri Chinmoy.

      "It is an exceptional privilege, to have the beauty of a serene mind, the purity of a loving Heart, and the divinity of a humble life."- Sri Chinmoy.

      "The Earth is the Lord's, and its fullness thereof, and they that dwell there in it."

      "Let not your Heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid ....."

      "What!Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, that God dwells in you, and that you are not your own?"

      "For lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of time."

      Somehow I felt like sharing, Marlene. The last four are from our loving Scriptures. God bless you!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 20 months ago from london

      I will pray for your recovery, Marlene. Much Love.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Very true, BlossomSB. I try to hold back and "feel" what the other person will feel if I were to say this or that. If I would be hurt under the same circumstances, I keep my mouth shut.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello manatita44. I am recuperating from surgery. I am resting and all is going well. Thank you for your encouragement. I'd like to keep writing, but want to write about things that are significant. I am in prayer over what direction to go.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      True, Suzanne Day. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. Still, once the words come out, we do better to make the adjustment to balance things out. I think we have to pour out an abundance of positive words to make those adjustments work because it's like the fence with the nails pulled out - the holes are still there. Even if we fill the holes with putty, the holes are now holes with putty in them. All we can do is our best and it sounds like you have done a wonderful job of bringing your children up in a wonderful and loving atmosphere.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello denise.w.anderson. Every experience is a learning adventure that gives us the opportunity to be wiser and able to help others get through life in this difficult world. Your children have the benefit of your wisdom in showing them the positive things you learned from your negative experience.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      So true, MsDora. We do have the power to replace false words with true words. For me it is a process of translation. Like, whenever someone speaks to me in Spanish I still have to translate it in my head from Spanish to English before I can respond. It took me years to learn how to overcome my negative experience. While I now know the truth, I still have to process it in my head before I can respond. I'm working on being more fluent. I'm looking forward to the day when I can respond without having to translate the false words language to true words language.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Indeed, billybuc, words are very important. And, as writers, we have a privileged command of words, so we have an opportunity to build up extra strong foundations in people.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello Jodah. Yes. Words can be weapons of mass destruction. I'm glad you enjoyed the video. I'm really impressed with the things Will Smith has accomplished in his life. He attributes his success to being around positive people who spoke words of wisdom to him.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hi Ericdierker. Thank you for your response. The Lord blessed me with an experience that taught me to be very aware of my words. He also blessed me with beautiful children who deserve to be treated with care. Whenever I speak to my children, I am extremely careful with my words. By the way, thank you for your prayers for my recovery.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 20 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      So often what we say can be easily misconstrued. We really do need to use that old adage, 'Before opening mouth, put brain into gear!'

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 20 months ago from london

      A beautiful Hub, and Will Smith does a great job in this video. Hope that all is well. Keep on writing. Excellent Hub for serving our Higher ideals. Love.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 20 months ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      This is so true. Children are still learning about the world and themselves through others and those first instances of negative impressions do a lot of damage.

      As a parent, I have found myself accidentally being a bit judgemental in my comments about them without noticing at the time. I make up for it as much as I can by showing and telling my children how much I love them (very much) and being very vocal about a host of positive skills, talents and things about them. I take care to listen, to respond to their jokes and creativity and to show them respect as people who are inherently deserving of it.

      Though it would be better if I could stop myself when the things I'd rather not say come out, making up for it by balancing it with many good things and the unconditional love and attention is certainly something that helps balance children and avoid boxing them in so they don't dwell on only a little feedback from the adults around them.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 20 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I have also learned this lesson from painful personal experience. As a result, I tried to raise my children using words that uplift and strengthen them. For the most part, they have grown up to be respectful adults, with a desire to help those around them. We would all do well to take this advice to heart!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 20 months ago from The Caribbean

      Especially with children, Marlene. Young minds soak up the words they hear and it could take a lifetime to wring them out. Without negating the effect of negative words, know that we have the responsibility to deal with them and replace them in our minds with what we know is the truth. Very important article!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I was a teacher for eighteen years....a parent for longer....what you say is so important. We have the ability to lift up, and we have the ability to shatter....words are so very important.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Go get them Marlene, prayers are with you for a successful procedure.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello everyone! I am on my way to have surgery and wanted to stop by here to let you know that I will respond to your comments within a few days. Until then, thank you very much for your valuable feedback.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 20 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a wonderful hub and excellent advice Marlene. Words can certainly scar for life. I heard a quote recently "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words - words can be weapons of mass destruction..." I love that Will Smith video, what an intelligent human being he is.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A wonderful look into our being. Perhaps someday we will be able to teach our youth to look inward for all validation and skyward for all truth. Our preciousness resides in a space much larger than us. I am thankful that I have been given the blessing of taking time to care about my impact on children. I pray that more will be so blessed. Well done on a great insight into an important aspect of our life.

    • MarleneB profile image
      Author

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from Northern California, USA

      I totally agree with you Farawaytree. Children are vulnerable and a quick word placed here and there can either harm or hurt them for life.

    • Farawaytree profile image

      Michelle Zunter 20 months ago from California

      Great hub! I know the things said to children sometimes are unnecessary and harmful. I wish some adults would learn to keep certain words in their heads not on their tongues

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