By now just about everyone has heard that on June 16 Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter of her boyfriend’s suicide in 2014; if not, here’s a link. This is a sad, realistic example that words do hurt, and can even kill. That is, spoken or written words. In this case, Carter sent her already suicidal boyfriend texts encouraging him to “make the pain go away” and “quit putting it off." Roy, the boyfriend, was already suicidal, and in the weeks before his death, Carter did try to convince him to get help at a hospital, but when Roy refused, Carter pushed him to take his own life. And he did.
Carter’s words may not be what originally put thoughts of suicide into Roy’s head, but her words did not discourage his thoughts of suicide. Her words encouraged him to take action. She was the one last push that Roy decided he needed to commit the act of suicide. Carter did not physically hurt Roy with her actions, but instead caused pain with her words.
Few realize the impact their words have on others. Most of what we type to each other over a screen, we would not say to that person’s face. Social media, texting, and other forms of typed-communication have made it very easy to get in touch with others, and though that is convenient, there are consequences that come along with it. Many do not think about the consequences before sending or posting something for one or more friends to see and read like they would if they were speaking to that person face-to-face. Either way, in person or over text or social media, words have a strong impact on those that they are spoken to.
Growing up, I was taught the phrase “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” as a response to others, and really a response for myself, when one said mean things to me. I took it as a little moral support phrase to tell myself. To remind myself that life keeps on even when others say discouraging things. For some, that works; but for others, like Roy, the consequences are fatal. The things that we say, whether face-to-face or through a screen, can have a life-changing impact. Be careful of what you say before you say it because though stick and stones will break your bones, words can kill.