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Power of words

Published March 14. 2011 05:00PM

I'd say I love my job 99.9 percent of the time. But, there's that little .1 percent where I really hate it. That's when I realize the amazing power of words.

It is never my intention for my words to hurt anyone. Yet, every once in a great while, it happens.

I received a phone call from a very unhappy reader and by the time I hung up, I was almost as unhappy as she was.

I didn't write anything that had not been told to me by a person I interviewed. But according to this new source, a statement made by the person interviewed, was an untruth. Because of that alleged untruth, she says she and her son have been hurt, not just emotionally, but business-wise, as well.

I'm still of that generation that has a hard time believing how wide our world has become through technology.

I still think of our TIMES NEWS as a small-town newspaper. But with the World-Wide Web, emails and Facebook, my one little story has reached into another close-by state and even as far away as Kansas.

The statement made by the interviewed person might not have had any repercussions here in our immediate readership but, it made good old Facebook and now I'm left feeling bad that my words inadvertently caused someone else pain.

Before I hung up with my unhappy reader, I made a promise to her and to myself that in the future, I will be very careful with the words I am responsible for sending out there into the world.

Another Facebook incident a few weeks ago was responsible for upsetting my daughter and she took it out on me.

She read on her Facebook that her uncle was hospitalized for a possible heart attack and she called me very irate that I hadn't called her to tell her.

After she calmed down, I had the chance to explain that he was fine, he didn't have a heart attack and that I had planned on calling her when I knew exactly what had happened. But, with the speed of Facebook, and the inaccuracy of the report, she heard about it long before I even was aware of his condition.

So, I am not a big fan of Facebook.

A friend of mine told me that she became upset with the way a local television station has been referring to a specific group in an ongoing news story. She believes it stereotypes a whole group in a negative way. While folding her clothes listening to yet another report, she finally had had enough. She sat down at her computer and wrote the General Manager of the station that she thought it was wrong for the reporters to keep referring to the young men allegedly responsible for a crime as members of a larger group, which gives a negative connotation to all those who do not participate in crime.

Apparently her message did not fall on deaf ears. In a news report two days later, the offensive connotation to a specific group was omitted and hasn't been used since.

Susan L. Smalley, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA said, "I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others. I never thought about a word being 'alive' but then I thought of words spoken 3,000 years ago, written down and passed through many generations, and they seem quite alive when read or spoken today, having lived 3,000 years. As I ponder the power of the word to incite and divide, to calm and connect, or to create and effect change, I am ever more cautious in what I say and how I listen to the words around me."

As I read her words about the power of the word to incite and divide, to create and effect change, I couldn't help but think about what we are seeing in the news today.

I am sick to death of the words coming out of Charlie Sheen's mouth. I think his words will be his downfall. It's so sad to watch a person self-destruct in such a public way.

Will the words of Sheen help us to stop putting celebrities on pedestals, giving them the sense that they are above the law and should be rewarded for a lack of morals?

I believe we are all watching in horror how the words of a mad man like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has stirred up his countrymen to take arms against him in revolution and how he is retaliating.

Will his words incite enough people to topple his reign or bring more terror to their lives?

And how about the words spoken in the Wisconsin legislature that voted to sign a bill in its state senate that has thousands of its state employees and voters worked up to a frenzy against their governor Scott Walker?

Can words spoken in one state capitol be enough to revolutionize voting in other state capitols?

But words can also bring about calm and connection.

I don't think that is more evident than when you see a child who is hurting, seek out its mother. When she gathers that child to her heart, she rocks the child and whispers words to soothe.

The power of words-amazing and humbling. May we choose them wisely.

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