This post was originally published in May 2008. Minor changes have been made.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
Remember this nursery rhyme? Does anyone out there really believe that words can’t hurt us? Words do hurt! Words can leave wounds and scars that linger long after broken bones are healed. Words can maim for life!
I’d never heard about American Idol, let alone watched it, until March of this year. Well, the big American Idol finale was last night. Two very talented singers went head to head. From all appearances, the two were both worthy of the title. Both are extremely gifted singers. Both appear to be humble young men from families that love them very much. Last night, one very deserving young man was crowned the victor. The other, just as deserving and just as talented, is rightly proud of the fact that he gave it his all and did his best.
It’s been interesting to watch the frenzy that surrounded this show, especially on the internet. Actually, I don’t think “interesting” is quite the word I want. I believe the one I want is “disheartening.” That’s the word that comes the closest to describing how I feel. I found it absolutely disheartening to read some of the unkind things that were written about the contestants, especially the young “Mormon kid” from Utah. It was especially disheartening to realize that some of the meanest things written about him were written not by teenagers but by adults.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that each of us will experience adversity in our lives.
“Adversity comes from different sources…Adversity may sometimes come because of others’ poor choices and hurtful words and actions” (“Adversity,” True to the Faith).
Negativity in the media is nothing new. We’ve dealt with it on a large scale ever since television became a common household item. However, the anonymity afforded by the internet seems to have given rise to a whole new level of mean-spiritedness in our society.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“…Negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak—or at least think—critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything. No sunshine, no roses, no promise of hope or happiness. Before long we and everybody around us are miserable” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” April 2007).
This post is really not about American Idol. It’s about how we view and treat each other. It’s about what we say about each other and how we say it. It’s about showing a little more kindness and compassion with the words that we speak and write. It’s about doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
As a parent, I know how crucial my words are to my children. The right words can lift and motivate while the wrong words can destroy. I have no doubt that my words affect my children whether they’re 8 years old or 19 years old. Because I know this, I’m very careful with my words, especially when I’m angry or upset.
Should I be any less careful with what I say to or about other people’s children? Of course not! Should I be any less considerate of what I say about anyone else? Absolutely not!
Does this mean that we can’t correct or offer constructive criticism when necessary? Of course not. Does this mean that we will like everyone that we’ll come across? No, definitely not. Does this mean that we’ll all be in agreement on every issue and matter that arises? Of course we won’t! BUT we can disagree without being mean. We can correct with love. We can even vote, praise, and cheer for our favorite American Idol without belittling the talent and character of the other.
Elder Holland continued:
“Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.”
There is a hymn that we sing in Church that I hum to myself when I find myself being less than charitable in my words. The first line reads, “Let us oft speak kind words to each other/At home or wherever we may be.” Friends, there is enough meanness and hate in the world. Let us try to be a little more considerate of each other. Let us try and speak kind words, not only within our homes but in our neighborhoods and communities and yes, even on the internet.