The Power of Words

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

We all sing-songed those words as kids (followed with a “niyeah”) to ward off the careless words of other children. And while I’d hate to ruin a child’s coping mechanism, I completely disagree. Words do hurt.

Words are both our canvas and our paint. Writers use them to build worlds, construct lives and shape stories. I know on several occasions I’ve told myself during a bout with writer’s block that they are only words, they won’t hurt me. At least not physically.

But words do inflict physical pain. Like the face that launched a thousand ships, how many of our civilization’s wars have been spawned by an errant word? How many walls were built by misunderstood utterances? And, how many people have died by a false statement?

Words can hurt and kill and maim. Just ask Nanon Williams, a 38-year-old former Death Row inmate who continues to serve time for a murder he didn’t commit. He has lost 20 years of his life because someone else said he committed a crime, even when evidence shows he didn’t. And, the refusal to grant a word to give him freedom from the oversight committee is equally damning.

But even in his darkest moments, Nanon turned to words to heal. As a teenager on Death Row, he picked up a pen and began writing. He spoke with the men serving on Death Row, using his gift of writing to give them a voice – in many cases the first time someone really listened to what they were saying.

I’m telling you his story because Nanon and I share a publisher, GoodMedia Press, and his newest book, “The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons” will be out in November (with a foreword from Susan Sarandon!).

The next time you are struggling over the right word, or find your tongue itching to utter an unkind word, think about the power of your words. Would you rather they build someone up, or crash the world around them?

About Kimberly Packard

Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years. When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, Oliver the cat and a 75-pound lap dog named Charlie. Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors.
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6 Responses to The Power of Words

  1. I never got why anyone wanted to hurt anyone verbally, from an emotional point of view. I know people who get off on hurting people’s feelings, from being cruel, and I understand a social dynamic behind this. I also remember what it felt like not being picked on anymore once I found a mark, but it didn’t last.

  2. webhuckster says:

    I agree that the wrong words can totally slay us and cause turmoil in our lives. Words can cause divorce, ruin friendships, and can even cause someone to commit suicide. It is our responsibility, as human beings, to ensure that our words are used to build other people’s spirits, to encourage their growth, to reach out to God on their behalf in their time of need, to pray for each other. I’m sure that was God’s intention when he gave us the gift of gab.

  3. webhuckster says:

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