Be a good girl! Don’t touch that. You’re a bad boy. Susan is such a good girl. He’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never amount to anything. We’ve all heard and perhaps even spoken one or more variations of the aforementioned phrases. We all know the power of words. Don’t we? These are our tools, our weapons of warfare that we utilize for good and evil. When we speak positively to a person we can change their day and lift their spirits. We’re speaking life to them. However, when we speak negatively to someone then we can bring them down or even destroy them. We’re speaking death to them. This isn’t a news flash. Anyone who blogs should know the power of words. I’ll go so far as to say, that, if you’re a human being, then you know the power of words.

Words that crush your soul that those you’ve loved the most have spoken to you. Those who think that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” As an adult, we should know who we are. We should know the lies that people say to us. The things that are said to hurt us, right? None of us were born adults though, we begin developing our responses to the words that hurt us or lift us before we can even remember those words.

From the moment we’re born our brains are developed to the point of being able to be receptive to language. I think that’s cool. I also think that it means that, from the time we come into this world our brains are being shaped by the words spoken to and around us. What does this mean? It means that we are helpless to how we respond to our situation. As an adult, we like to believe that we have the choice to leave when we want. However, how much does our helplessness as an infant reflect into our adulthood?

Language is so much more than words. A typical infant, between the ages of three and six months, can express pain, pleasure, displeasure, hunger and respond to the tones of voice. That’s only a small part of childhood development. You can read more here. Let’s think about that for a moment. Did you think about it? Great. Let’s think about this too. Science tells us that we don’t remember very much before the ages of two through three.

Science tells us that it’s likely that our first memories before these ages are fiction. I know that my first memory was when I was a year old. Now, I didn’t realize that this was my first memory until I was twenty-nine. I do believe, however, that what I previously thought, was my first memory, was between the ages of two and three.

Here we are not remembering anything, according to science, before the ages of two and three. Therefore, we’ve gone through a lot of psychological development through language and other communication. People wonder why children behave the way they do. If you’ve been told for two years or so that you’re bad then it sinks in. It becomes a part of you. If, on the other hand, you’ve been directed with loving and life-giving instruction then that too, becomes a part of you.

In my time of teaching children, we didn’t speak to them in terms of being “good” or “bad.” We spoke in terms of choices and used neutral or non-judgmental tones of voice. For example, telling Susan that she’s “bad” for not sharing with Tommy just didn’t fly. On the other hand, asking Susan, how she might feel if Tommy didn’t share is another approach. The point here, for this discourse, is that we’re being trained on how to behave and how to think of ourselves and others from the time we’re born through verbal and non-verbal communication.

Let’s think of the ramifications of being told that you’re a bad person from the time you were born until, let’s say, you become a teenager. What that must do to your self-image. Let’s think about a life of affirmation from the time you were born until you become a teenager. How very different those two people may see themselves because of words.

We’ve not even addressed other forms of input from our peers to social media. There was no such thing as cyber bullying when I grew up. The bullies of yesteryear were those who only worked from the time you were in school to shortly after you got out of school.  Cyberbullying has brought bullying into an unnatural, natural state of being for the youth of today, that’s all about degrading the human spirit to the point where, in too many cases, life, to the one being bullied, isn’t worth living.

Over 50% of people under the age of 18 have experienced cyberbullying and the same number have engaged in cyberbullying according to a 2009 study by the i-SAFE foundation. This involves anything from death threats, blackmail, damaging words, and rumors. The list sadly goes on.  This was ten years ago! Why are we surprised when they are mass shootings when, according to this study, everyone under the 18 of age, in 2009, had either engaged in or was a victim of cyberbullying? I wonder how many people have killed themselves because of those words? Less than 10% of people under the age of 18 reported bullyings to anyone. If that’s the case then it’s likely that those statics are much higher.

The population of the United States in 2009 was 305 million people. The current population of the United States is over 329 million people with a growth rate of one child born every eight seconds. There are 31,536,000 seconds in one year of 365 days. If we divide that by eight then that’s 3,942,000 children born in one year. So, from 2009 until 2019 we can look at 39,420,000 new children. Of course, there are mortality rates and such not taken into account here as well as my fallibility as a human to make mistakes. The point, however, is that these are new people being born. How many of them were born to people who were 18 in 2009 and are being raised in this age of speaking death by people raised on death?

Wow, how depressing that can be. How insightful it can be into why there’s such judgment upon this age of Millennials. We’re not looking at a generational gap here; we’re looking at a gulf between Millennials and everyone who has come before them. We’re looking at a generation more heavily influenced by the power of communication than any previous generation. A generation that’s carrying on this tradition of speaking death. Judgment and condemnation are not needed here. We need understanding. We need to speak life into this generation whose children might not come home from school today.

How much more important it is then, to speak affirmation, life, hope into people’s lives than ever before? How much more important is it to applaud this generation of Millennials who are doing the best that they can in circumstances that many of us never even knew? There’s already enough death in the world without us speaking it to one another each day.

We’ll continue to examine the role of communication in the next part of this series. In the meantime, try smiling, saying, “Hello” to a stranger, be kind. Treat people with love. I’d say, treat them like you’d want to be treated, but I don’t how you’ve been treated. If you’ve been beaten by words perhaps it’s all you know?