“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”
– The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
This quote got me thinking about words. I am a firm believer in the power of words. At times of distress, kind words from a friend can reassure and heal. Words can inspire others. They can build bridges between people. However, words can be the source of discouragement and hurt. Words can break relationships, and once spoken, cannot be taken back.
This is echoed by another quote: (I love this one)
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
– Yehuda Berg
To help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble. Words can do all that? Amazing.
And on the bigger scale:
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– Robin Williams
Edgar Allan Poe takes a different approach to words. It makes you think:
“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
– Edgar Allan Poe
Interesting, isn’t it? Aren’t the most powerful words those that ring true? But what about hateful words that are spoken with the intent to hurt others (racism, sexism, homophobia)? I believe that such comments are not true, however they still have the power to hurt others.
How about this old adage? (Do let me know if you know the origin of this one:)
“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words cannot hurt me.”
This seems to imply that words have no power to hurt. I believe this is spoken in a different context: It is a meditation of the person who is on the receiving end of hurtful words, who tries to resist its effect. I do believe that words can hurt, perhaps even more so than sticks and stones.
What are your thoughts about words?