In this world of school shootings and hatred, terrorism and abuse of power, the truly scary thing is how we treat each other on a daily basis. Far from the time when “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” we have fallen on dark times where verbal abuse has not only become the norm but is occasionally used as a form of greeting between friends. The pessimism and negativity permeating our world has led to a regression in manners and in the understanding of the meaning and necessity of civil/human rights. Most of the negativity we retain is absorbed from our environment, though for some it relates to one specific traumatic event in their pasts. 

The Carrie Underwood song, “Little Toy Guns” captures the fear, pain, and even anger inspired by the recent global turmoil, particularly within the United States. 

“I wish words were like little toy guns/No sting, no hurting no one/Just a bang, bang rolling off your tongue.”

For me, it brings me right back to my childhood. I come from a split family, my parents were never married and have never really gotten along for long periods of time. Although I have some pleasant memories involving both of my parents in the same place at the same time, the majority of my memories featuring both of my parents at once are filled with fear, pain and anger. Fear that the screaming and crying would lead to physical violence between the two. Pain because they caused each other so much unnecessary pain through their hateful words. And yes, even anger, that two people whom I love dearly were so awful to each other. I still don’t quite understand how anyone could hate another person as much as it seemed my parents hated each other. I remember taking refuge, whether in my room, in a parent’s car, or by withdrawing into myself, just as the little girl of the song hides in the closet while her parents argue. Her sentiments of wishing that words couldn’t really hurt is one I’ve experienced many times. 

“Mom and daddy just won’t stop it/Fighting at the drop of a faucet/Cuts through the walls, catastrophic/She’s caught in the crossfire.”

It’s true that many people mock the increasingly common note of offense taken about messages or posts on social media, but what they fail to realize is that words really can hurt. Cyberbullying is a valid threat to human health and has become the most often practiced form of bullying through the past years as younger and younger people obtain access to social media and the internet. The physical jousts in the hallways that our parents remember, the ones witnessed and described in our favorite ‘80s films, have been transformed into harsh words that can cause physical ailments. They can’t cause a black-eye, of course, but depression and anxiety are caused and affected by the hormones running through our bodies. Those hormones are affected by our mental state and our mental health has become a larger and greater priority partially due to this degeneration into a society filled with negativity. Or, as my mom would call us, “stress balls.”

“Leave the plastic pistols in the front yard/Throw away the scorecard/And just turn off all the noise”

Honestly, I’ve been called over-emotional many times for my lack of composure during debates with my parents. The problem, I’ve come to realize, is that when I get into an argument with someone, particularly my parents, I lose my ability to think clearly. I forget my logical points and how best to express them, often thought out for days in my head before the full-blown discussion, I lose my temper easily and soon find myself in tears. It’s not that I’m over-emotional, though that is also true, but the fact is that I feel myself transform into the little girl I was back when my parents saw each other regularly enough to scream at each other. I fill with pain, anger and fear. Dread, really. It makes me unable to concentrate on my grown-up thoughts, opinions and communication skills. My vocabulary shrinks: I could swear it’s literal. It’s worse than a mind blank or a “brain fart”…it’s like Madame Mim turning me into a fish while I’m still on land and I find myself flopping about on the shore, looking and feeling both ridiculous and terrified. 

“I wish they didn’t cut like a knife/I wish they didn’t break you inside/I wish they didn’t bang, bang/Make you wanna run…”

So just remember that when you say anything, to anyone, it can hurt. Please be careful. Human beings are a lot more fragile than we may realize and nobody needs another reason for therapy. Or as Bill and Ted from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” would say, “Be excellent to each other!”

Executive Editor