Words can indeed hurt us Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 08, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
Bullying behavior

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior usually used among school-aged children. Children who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems, says the website

Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes, including impacts on mental health, substance abuse, and suicide. Those who bully others are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults, get into fights, vandalize property, have criminal convictions and traffic citations, and be abusive to their partners, spouses, or children as adults.

So what may start with words can lead to activities that can hurt others. It is important that everyone try to prevent bullying. The website offers these suggestions:

• Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.

• Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.

• Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.

• Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.

The virtue of kindness

Children do learn from adults’ actions. They see how adults live their lives. Even if it seems like they aren’t paying attention, kids watch how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.

I’ve thought recently that kindness is a virtue that seems to be increasingly rare in today’s society. One definition I found for kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Being kind doesn’t mean we’re naive or weak. Instead, being kind requires courage and strength, according to an article in Psychology Today.

There are at least 72 Bible verses about kindness. Perhaps Ephesians 4:32 sums it up best: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Words have power

It seems to me that our world — including our political leaders — could use a lesson in kindness. Instead of issuing insults and calling people names, wouldn’t it be better if we could emphasize the positive in our words?

It is also important that we call out hate speech and racist comments when they occur.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago wrote in a July 24 commentary in the Chicago Catholic newspaper about Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and the policies that led to the Holocaust.

He said that “it all began with words. Words that called people ‘other,’ that targeted people as worthy of fear or threatening national greatness, and then eventually dangerous and requiring elimination.” Those words ultimately led to the extermination of six million Jews and countless others.

We must recognize that words have the power to hurt and cause destruction and even death. We must do what we can to stop bullying of all kinds and exercise the virtue of kindness.