Words Can Kill

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me*.

Who wrote this dribble?

Words can hurt.

Words can even kill.

Taunting or poking “fun” at someone is nothing new; it has just gone high-tech. With the invention of the Internet and now social networking, verbal bullying has reached an all time high.

Cyber bullying has become the way for even the mildest person to become a bully. One definition of Cyber-bullying is: the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.

A good friend of mine told me that she has witnessed children posting hurtful things about another child on a school’s Facebook page. They wrote the words and followed the barbs with cyber lingo like JK (just kidding) and LOL (laugh out loud) and sent them into cyberspace from where nothing can ever be erased.

Joking with a friend is one thing, but these children were not even friends – so where does the kidding come into play? I have always chided my husband, who is the king of zingers, that “joking at the expense of another is not funny.”

The number of  teen suicides due to bullying, especially through social networking is on the rise. The most publicized deaths often center around homosexual relationships, but recently one incident hit the news that was so shocking that it had an entire community up in arms against this newest form of verbal abuse.

Phoebe Prince moved from Ireland to Massachusetts only to end her short life, because she faced constant vicious taunts, both through the Internet and personal contact. On YouTube.com there are hundreds of news stories, outcries and tributes dedicated to this one incident, including a music video co-written and sung by Newcastle’s own Kylie Morgan.

It is a known fact that bullies are just big cowards, picking on those younger or weaker than themselves in an attempt to feel powerful. But, cyberbullies are even bigger cowards. They attack their victims from behind screens, which they think provides anonymity. The cold, hard truth is that no matter which kind of bully you are, you are still to blame when tragedy strikes.

Although it seems that everyone has been writing and speaking on this one subject for many years, the verbal infection continues to spread. Perhaps in 1894 when that simple nursery rhyme was written, words didn’t have the power to hurt children and teenagers like they do now, but I seriously doubt it.

When you look for the earliest mention of harmful words, you will have to look no further than your family Bible. The book of Proverbs, which has countless words of wisdom on the subject of harmful words, was written between 1,000 to 300 B.C.

In Proverbs 12:6, Solomon wrote, “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them.” He also wrote in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” In James 3:6, the Bible says that the tongue is “a fire, a world of [injustice]”, and James 3:8 calls the tongue a “deadly poison.”

What this tells me is that we creatures have always had trouble controlling our words, even those of us who consider ourselves Christian – myself especially included. When we let words escape through our lips – or in the case of cyber bullying, our fingertips – no matter if we try to “take them back,” they have already found their mark and done their harm. And with the Internet, there are no “take backs,” because once in cyberspace, always in cyberspace.

In the case of children verbally abusing other children to the point of death, the answer lies with parental involvement. Know what your children are saying or typing on any kinds of social networking. Is this an invasion of their privacy? Well that is a subject for another discussion, but I would say no.

My belief is that children are a gift from God, on loan to us to raise and teach. In this day of cyber babysitting, we as parents are not doing a good job of teaching our children what is and isn’t acceptable. Monitor what your children are doing on social networking sites. It’s not that hard to discover; just subscribe to some of the same pages they do, where all their words are printed for everyone to see.

If you discover that they are engaging in this horrific pastime, be pro-active. Talk to them about the brutal reality of what they are doing. Sometimes that is all it takes. But if you suspect that your child is a chronic bully-er (this may require that you take your blinders off), then seek help for your child. We all know our children at their deepest level, and most of us have a pretty good idea what they are up to; it just requires paying attention.

Likewise, if you have even the tiniest inkling that your child may be a victim, INTERVENE! Do it before the apple of your eye becomes another heart-wrenching statistic. One of my favorite verses on this subject is Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

These words of wisdom are something that we all need to practice. But alas, we are humans, and it is not in our nature. But that doesn’t mean that we have to ever stop trying.

*This is an old proverb or nursery rhyme. It is also written ,‘names will never hurt me.’ It is credited: 1894 G. F. Northall, Folk-Phrase

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rebekah
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 10:21:18

    “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” -Mother Theresa

    Reply

  2. Darla Welchel
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 15:33:00

    So very true.

    Reply

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