Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sticks and Stones May Break Bones But Words Can Kill

                     It doesn't take a shred of bravery to talk about someone badly behind their back. When someone we look down upon isn't around, our criticisms of them fly around the room freely, and we think that no harm can come to us from judgements shared privately amongst friends.

Original Art created by NeoYas available on

                    In an attempt to make our language more offensive and mocking, we start to imitate television and movies, passing off our nasty evaluations of people as "poking fun" or "just kidding." We give people monstrous nicknames, make fun of their looks, mock their intelligence, or craft humiliating jokes at their expense. Our sarcastic words can take on very threatening qualities, but we don't even take the time to realize it. We defend ourselves that we're just "blowing off steam" or that we are sarcastic by nature. That may be, but it doesn't stop us from having to pay for it later.

                    There's an old saying that goes, "The mouth is the gateway to calamity." In Buddhism, all our actions are subject to the Law of Cause and Effect. That means everything we think, say, or do... CAN and WILL be used against us. When we are are using thoughtless and heartless words, we are performing a bad action. Bad-mouthing as an action plants seeds of karma that will later come back to haunt us with terrible consequences. And we'd better be prepared, because it'll be equal to the negative feelings we projected onto the person we didn't like.

                     As we've learned from the Law of Cause and Effect, a good deed makes a good result. A bad deed makes a bad result. Everything we do determines each of our own individual results to come.

                    So if you talk badly about that guy at your work, it is you who will later have to face negative consequences. But you might be thinking, "Well, what I'm saying isn't that bad..." or "She deserved it. I don't care."

                    However, Buddhism stresses that various evils come out of our mouths as easily as a yawn. Most of the things we say about others goes unchecked and we think it's OK, when in fact -- those words are abusive

Original Photo taken by LauraLewis23 available at

                    Bad-mouthing someone is a form of abuse. It includes saying negative things, putting people down, and cursing at them. Sometimes in the movies, we become entertained by actors and comedians who skillfully word their clever insults about other people. It may be amusement for a couple of hours with a bowl of popcorn on a Friday night, but when we invoke the same foul language toward someone in our life, the negativity it creates will only bring harm down the road for us. Even if you don't mean the words you are saying, they are still hurtful and carry a negative energy.

             Why is it so easy to be critical of someone who isn't present? Haven't we all experienced moments where we've felt criticized? Yet in those moments, when we found out people had been saying "You suck" behind our backs, it didn't feel all that great, did it?

               Talking badly about someone is like killing them. Each negative word you're using against that person becomes like a murder weapon. In this way, our words continue to torment others unknowingly day in, day out.

             Here's a short story from the book, Something You Forgot Along the Way to use as an example.


             A very old woman, over 120 years of age, once had a visitor who commented, "You must have had many rare and interesting experiences over the course of your long lifetime. Will you please share one of those memories with me?"

            "I'm sure lots of things did happen, but my memory isn't what it used to be; I'm afraid I have forgotten them all," replied the old woman, shaking her head.

             The visitor sympathized, saying that was only natural for someone of her advanced years, but persisted, "Isn't there at least one thing you do remember?"

              "Well if you must insist, I'll tell you. I have painful memories of being killed 24 times." The old woman mumbled these mysterious words half to herself, her wrinkled face settling into a frown. When asked to explain, she began to tell her story bit by bit in a sorrowful tone, pausing frequently.

              "During my lifetime, I've seen the births of many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. But it is the way of life that death can strike anyone, young or old, and so it sometimes happened that a child or grandchild of mine would predecease me. We've had a total of 24 funerals in this house. Each time, I overheard people who came to offer their condolences say, 'If only the old woman had died instead!' They at least would whisper it in another room out of deference to me, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren would deliberately say such things to my face. Their words killed me again and again."


                        It's bad enough to know people are talking about you behind your back, but when you hear it directly it's even worse. These days because of the Internet, people criticize others and go on to say dreadful things about others in posts or comments. If we choose to ignore this problem, it can quickly escalate and even become lethal.

Original Art Photo by TRF_Mr_Hyde available on

                       Take what happened to Paris Jackson, 15-year-old daughter of the King of Pop Michael Jackson. Paris was cyberbullied on Facebook and various social media about rumors of her father mistreating children. Even though a court of law found Michael not guilty of these charges, many believed he was guilty of criminal activity. These people became so scornful and negative that they directly ridiculed Paris and her own childhood, slandered her father in grotesque ways, and demoralized her life so much so that the teenager even attempted suicide last June. This type of verbal abuse, even though the only sound to express them was the clicking noise from letters on a keyboard, still managed to cause a young girl so much internal suffering that she lost all hope for her future and along with it her own will to live.

                       How many careless jokes have we made about celebrities without thinking of them as human beings or even how their families might feel about hearing those uncaring remarks? When we speak badly of others, we must be so careful. Words have the power to kill.  

                        Just this month a committee in Ireland formed up to analyze the negative impact of cyberbullying on their local children. The report claims that social media substantially affects children's mental health using the incidents of four teenage suicides in Ireland that occurred in rapid succession. Officials are calling for child protection guidelines and age restrictions on social media. Read the full story from online news site --

                        What does that say about all of us making remarks, direct or indirect, about others and their misfortunes? Even to those who appear guilty or who we presume deserve our criticisms, we gain absolutely nothing by passing on our own judgements just to hurt them more and more.

                         It's in common practice today to send a nasty text message or IM (instant message) about someone who's in the same room. What does that say about our nature? We must reflect on all of our words, whether they're spoken or digital, and imagine if someone else was saying those same filthy words to us face-to-face. And having a thicker skin isn't always the answer to everything when you take into account that doing so is hurting other people.

                         The most casual joke or reference then has tremendous power to do us harm! Even if no one finds out about what you did, eventually you must face the repercussions of your own karma. It's definitely something to think about and to continue to take seriously.

                         Let's find the nice qualities in others and help people develop their talents. When we realize we're saying something in the wrong, we should correct ourselves and apologize swiftly. Because a word to the wise, we're not really all that wise with our words.

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