The Power of Words

Words can be a very powerful thing. Linguistics in general is powerful. Our whole lives, words have been used for support, harassment, encouragement, repression, empowerment, enslavement, and much more. Words give us such strong feelings whether they be positive or negative, because we give words so much power over us. It is true, words are powerful, but it’s up to each individual to decide whether to give the statements power or not.

    For a long time, I have struggled with assertiveness and standing up for myself. If it were someone else being put down, bossed around, or in some other predicament, I wasn’t no time standing up for them being there for them. But in doing that for others, I never learn how to do it for myself. I love writing, so of course I believe words can be powerful, but that’s the key word, ‘can’. In drawing back to a local, more recent event that happened here on our campus was an individual that stood in our campus ‘mall’, preaching their beliefs and what their point of view on the world was. Now, this person had some very strong beliefs, like we all do, but in my eyes and many others, this person took ‘freedom of speech’ too far. There is a blurry line between what is condoned as ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘hate speech’, unfortunately, many times when a person is making strong remarks against a particular group in our society, it is written off as a simple ‘freedom of speech’. Do I believe in this? No, not really. I am all for standing up for what you believe in, protesting for your beliefs, preaching your beliefs, but the moment that your speech turns into direct hate against an individual, group or idea, that is what someone has crossed the line. 

    Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, of course. That is what is so great about all of this. But beliefs have a point of turning into hate and an excuse for people to inflict their hate on a particular group, claiming it is just ‘what they believe in’. I try not to roll my eyes even thinking of this. So, back to the individual that was on our MNSU campus for two day for a total of sixteen hours. This person was there, seeking attention to fuel that hate in them and to use that hate to ‘inflict’ his beliefs on others. If you walked outside during the hours of 9am to 5pm, you heard what sounded like a screeching of words coming from the campus mall. If you walked over to the noise, curious as to what was causing the racket, you would be greeted with a site of anywhere between ten to forty students gathered around this person in a circle. The preacher would be there, saying what he wants to say and looking to get a rise out of anyone willing to listen. Sometimes, most of the time, a student or group would stand up or walk forwards, asking the person a question or directly stating that what he was doing was exhausting and he needed to leave. There was many quarls and moments where this whole thing went way too far, but that is the thing, there was never a need for this to go as far as it did. Do not get me wrong, I fully did not agree with anything the person was saying and a lot of the time, after hearing things said by this person from other people, I did get angry, upset. I was giving that person power in his words to make me feel that way. 

    My point in all of this is not to say don’t let any speech or writing ever have any affect over you, because that would be saying that words don’t have any power at all when, in fact, they do. The point is to be assertive with yourself, to stand up for yourself in moments like these where someone is saying something much like the individual on campus and what they say is downright hatred. The preacher is looking for the attention. The group of students around him, the videotaping, the arguments and testing against him is what they want. They need the anger of people’s responses to the statements to fuel the hatred in him. Every time a new person steps into that circle, it adds to the fire already raging. In moments outside of an example such as this one, deciding when to give words power is hard. Every day, I give a statement or simple text more power than it’s worth. People like the one on campus are not going to go away, but you can make them so unimportant in your life that you won’t even notice they are there. Of course, you can’t do this with everything, but insignificant people like that one, sure, go ahead.

    This may have just been a rant of the injustice of public hate speech still present on our campus, or it was a real way to try and explain my point of view on the idea of taking power away from words. They can still be hurtful and in some cases, you’re meant to feel hurt by them. In others, you decide what matters and what doesn’t. That’s the beauty of free-will and being an individual. So, next time you want to preach your beliefs, do so in a way that is free from hate, and when you hear or read something that hurts or make you feel happy, even, make sure it’s the kind of words you really want to give your power.