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Words do hurt

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Carlos Barter
  • 90th Missile Wing Equal Opportunity
Have you ever heard the following phrase or nursery rhyme: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?" Do you think this is true?

Personally, I don't. In fact, I think words can and do actually hurt people. I think a bigger question should be: shouldn't we all be treating one another with dignity and respect?

Shouldn't we all work in an environment that's professional in nature and free of offensive words and behaviors? Do we stop to think how words cannot only impact people, but potentially have a negative impact on mission accomplishment?

Every once in a while, whether it is during training or while out and about, people may express their opinion and say, "Master Sgt. Barter, some people are just overly sensitive, can't take a joke or just get offended easily."

My reply to people making these types of comments always is, "how would you feel if someone said something offensive to you?" I try to encourage people to put themselves in someone else's shoes.

However, sometimes people feel or believe the words they say to others will not affect the individual.

It may be true that insulting or offensive words do not cause bruises and broken bones, but do we stop to think how words can cause emotional and psychological damage? A single word can affect a person's life.

Dr. Silvia Hartmann, researcher, author and international lecturer, once said, "Words-and particularly, the energy forms transmitted through those words can hurt a person for longer and much, much worse than sticks and stones ever could."

We should try to remember that just because we think a word is not offensive to us, doesn't mean that someone else will feel or think the same way.

Understanding the meaning of certain words and how they could impact others could help minimize potential complaints as it relates to the use of offensive words.

Having the attitude that sticks and stones may break my bones but words can't is simply wrong, and it is not compatible with our service core values. We all share the responsibility of not only creating professional working environments, but also treating one another with dignity and respect.