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Sticks, stones AND words hurtPosted Monday, May 14, 2012, at 1:00 PM
Words are powerful.
Words are lasting.
Although it's been 30-plus years since each of my daughters were born, I can still remember that day, when the nurse informed us, "It's a girl!"
Those three words changed my life and displays the power of words.
And, there are the handwritten notes that have been given to me by my young granddaughters and grandsons with the words, "I love you Pops."
Nothing comes close to words like those.
Then, there are the words that cut to the core of your heart and hurt deeply.
Remember the saying, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
I remember saying those words when I was younger to try and convince myself of its truth in the face of painful words thrown my way.
I have to disagree with the saying's premise.
Words do hurt.
Last week, I received a not-so-nice e-mail from an individual, who obviously does not like my writings - especially coverage of child abuse and molestation cases - here at the newspaper.
The e-mailer ended his torrid correspondence to me by stating, "Given that you're pushing 60 and fat ... one can only hope you retire or die real soon."
On the surface, I kind of laughed and sort of shrugged it off considering the source as one who is ignorant, someone who doesn't know me or what I'm feeling in my heart when I write about the disgusting and heart-wrenching things that criminals in our county are accused of doing to innocent young children.
But those stinging words from a stranger still hurt.
Ironically, the comments came about a column I had written about recently celebrating my 59th birthday.
Let's be truthful. I don't have the luxury of selecting all of the topics I write about. Part of my beat is covering crime that occurs in Greene County.
We report on the crimes that happen. It's not fiction. It's reality. We don't make this stuff up.
I would love not to have to write those stories and write happy "feel-good" stories every day.
But that's not reality.
There are sick and evil people in our towns and lurking all over this county preying on our sons and daughters.
Thank goodness for the brave victims who come forth to tell the truth about what adults, who should know better, have done to them in an effort to see that justice is done after the mental, physical and emotional scars are etched.
Thank goodness for the police officers and Child Protective Service caseworkers who investigate these horrible crimes.
Thank goodness for the prosecutors and judges who work tireless to hold these child molesters and child abusers accountable for their unlawful actions.
This e-mailer must be someone who feels strong and empowered when they state such demeaning and damning words.
The truth is, those words hurt.
It's pretty sad when an individual, who was obviously using a "'fake" name to cowardly hide his true identity, says something so bad to someone, who is not known to him other than a name in the newspaper.
Several years ago, I penned a prayer of sorts that I've shared with some of my journalist co-workers and friends that pretty much sums up how I approach my job as a news writer for more than three decades. It's prayer that I try to read every day so it sinks into the depths of my heart.
It reads in part, "Lord, help my words today to be filled with fairness, accuracy and compassion. Help my words to be thought-provoking, creative, in good taste, educational, filled with truth and objectivity. Please help me to write about others as I would have others write about me, my family and friends. Let wisdom prevail in all that I say, write, think or do. Let me be mindful and thankful for the daily responsibility I possess in this job."
Some days I attain this goal. Other days, I probably don't.
We all might be wise to heed the words of Susan Smalley, Ph.D who writes, "I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others. I never thought about a word being 'alive' but then I thought of words spoken 3,000 years ago, written down and passed through many generations, and they seem quite alive when read or spoken today, having lived 3,000 years. As I ponder the power of the word to incite and divide, to calm and connect, or to create and effect change, I am ever more cautious in what I say and how I listen to the words around me."
As a journalist, I'm very aware that once it's written, it's pretty hard to take back or retract without a bundle of mercy and forgiveness. So we do try to be careful what we write and how we write it, even when it seems like we don't in the eyes of some.
Nick is assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at email@example.com .
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