Think back to a time when you were mocked for something you loved. Feel that pain. What did you do with it? Did you laugh it off, hide it, let shame ride into your being to the point you gave up part of yourself? Did you become the arbiter of someone else’s humiliation in order to pacify your own? Were you told to get over it or they’re just words or some other dismissive, patronizing verbiage?
Words hurt. I don’t know how many times I was called fat in middle-school. Guess what? I have no enamel on my teeth, a permanently scarred esophagus, and no stomach lining from eating disorders. My heart is permanently damaged from having two small heart attacks from those words.
Words can kill you. Just read the teen and LBGTQ suicide rates right now. Read about postpartum psychosis.
Words can also save you. They can save others. Our words, given to a new mother at just the right moment, can give her permission to leave guilt behind and sleep–that her baby will be fine being held by someone else. Words given to a socially isolated teen can keep them for one more day. Not always, but often, can our words be the lifeline a despairing soul needs to hear. What are you saying, words with life in them, or words of condemnation?
But I have a right to my opinion. Aye, comrade, you do. We are no longer children, though, and our rights aren’t as important as someone else’s need. Selfishness in declaring the freedom of a thing should never usurp the humanity of a person. The abstract idea of freedom of speech is abused by the unmerciful speaker, and their words become a thousand small tornadoes leaving untold destruction behind them.
Compassion isn’t a weakness, just as cruelty isn’t a strength.
Be well, friends. And please, be kind.