“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Nice idea… but really, who came up with that?
The human body has a remarkable ability to recover from physical injuries, and often without lasting damage. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule – if ever you’ve landed awkwardly on your ankle while dancing in your university kitchen, you’ll know what I mean. But if you’ve tripped over a stick or fallen on a stone and have, in fact, broken a bone, it’s usually a case of six weeks, cast off, and you can trot off into the sunset on your newly healed extremities.
Now, I love the occasional proverb. But this one sticks (pardon the pun) in my mind for all the wrong reasons. While it’s true that words themselves aren’t capable of inflicting physical harm, they are perhaps the most formidable weapon in anyone’s armoury.
“The pen is mightier than the sword.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839
Ah, another of my favourites.
I won’t spam you with any more quotes, I promise. But as a writer, voracious reader and passionate believer in the power of the written word, I think our good friend Mr Bulwer-Lytton was spot on with this one.
Because words are the backbone of everything. Whether you want to communicate important information, influence perspectives or change lives, it’s the words you choose, the content you write, and the things you say to people that matter.
Let’s take business as an example. Messaging is marketable. And when used to spread information and education, words are truly the most valuable asset we own – especially in PR. Without words, we’d have nothing to sell. Imagine not being able to communicate with clients or colleagues, or post on social media. Imagine a world without insightful content, without emails, without… speech?
Without words, the world as we know it would be no more.
As pointed out in 1839, the pen is “mighty”. Written words can mean the difference between understanding and confusion. Between success and failure. Between happiness and pain. And when it comes to negativity, trolling and the generation of “keyboard warriors” who use their words to inflict so much (non-physical, but very real) hurt, sometimes they can mean the difference between life and death.
I know I promised there wouldn’t be any more quotes. But given the recent tragedies in the news, this one is so poignant I couldn’t leave it out. So, I’ll apologise in advance, and leave you with this one to reflect on.
“Words start wars and end them, create love and choke it, bring us to laughter and joy and tears. Words cause men and women to willingly risk their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Our world, as we know it, revolves on the power of words.” – Roy Williams
When it comes to words, we all have choice. So choose to end wars. Choose love. Choose laughter. Choose to risk your fortune and your honour for the right reasons, and use your words to be a force for good in the world.
Words have so much power. It’s how we choose to use them that makes all the difference.