I still remember with fondness a poem about the power of words from one of the epics taught to us at school. “You can recover from the nasty wounds inflicted on your body by sharp arrows with a little care, but from the stinging words of hatred that remain lodged in the heart, you may never ever recover”, it stated.
Watching my words and restraining from speaking my thoughts even in the most trying circumstances have been an important learning for me since then, but I find that most people still don’t seem to care about words or their impact either good or bad. Particularly disturbing is the conduct of politicians who never watch their words, forgetting all forms of civility when it comes to abusing and demeaning one another. We have over the years seen them come to blows and fisticuffs in legislative bodies and resort to nasty words intended to hurt and destroy those with opposing views and ideologies. The trend only gets worse by the day. The foul-mouthed senior politician is omnipresent in most web series today, merely reflecting the real situation on reel. Setting wrong precedents for the younger lot of politicians who will have to bid goodbye to the eloquence of speech and informed debates and learn to use jargon that is now expected from them is indeed a sad reflection of the ethical and moral morass that we are in despite our technological and scientific advancement.
The wounds inflicted by hurtful words are invisible scars that can destroy a person forever but most people living in the bubble of self-importance driven by the feeling that they alone are ‘right’ are unmindful of the repercussions. This attitude is at the root of all conflict and we will do well as a society if we focus on how to use words effectively as they are a real reflection of our character. Spewing hatred against individuals whether in the closed environs of the family or outside cannot be seen as freedom of expression. What you say, the way you say it and your choice of words become extremely important in all interactions personal or professional. Words can wound or heal, create togetherness or distance and make or break individuals or societies and are therefore to be used responsibly. Another Subhashita or good word from the Mahabharata says “A forest destroyed by a wildfire or axe will grow again in time. But the wound caused to the mind by harsh words will never be healed”.
We live in a society that doesn’t understand the strength and beauty of words and therefore cannot appreciate poetry, prose or music with true awareness. Only when we value words can we appreciate the fact that diversity and dissent are necessary but can be expressed with a better choice of words and without hurting the other.