"Think before you speak."
This is the phrase that many of us heard growing up - from parents, teachers, mentors. We start off like this, with no filter, because we're young and innocent. We don't know any better. We don't know that it's inappropriate to point out someone's physical differences in the grocery store. We don't know that it hurts people's feelings when we tell them we don't like them. Our minds haven't quite grasped that concept yet.
Then, at some point, we get it. We understand that we can't just say whatever comes to mind. It might offend or upset someone else. It might damage or ruin relationships. We learn the power of words.
Or at least most of us do.
For some, this phrase becomes more difficult to live by. People become frustrated or mad, and they simply let go of their words without understanding the repercussions. I've been guilty of this. I think we all have. We reach our breaking point, and we snap - unable to restrain ourselves from the overwhelming emotion inside of us, whatever that emotion might be. Social media only amplifies this. It gives us an outlet through which to convey these emotions. We hide behind our computer screens, and we type out whatever is on our mind. We hit "Tweet" or "Post," and we close our app or our web browser, feeling a sense of relief that we've gotten something off of our chest.
The question is, do we truly think about what we've written before we post it? Do we think about the consequences of those words? Do we think about the ways in which they might affect others or our relationships with others?
I understand that social media is a personal outlet. My Facebook page, my Twitter feed: these are for MY thoughts. I am entitled to my own opinions, as are you. Yet, it's also a medium for engaging with others, and I think this fact alone should compel us, not to think before we speak, but to think before we post. Even worse, unlike speaking, social media keeps a permanent record of those thoughts and feelings. Not even hitting "delete" or "hide" can erase the words you've chosen.
And I know . . . we're also told growing up that sticks and stones can break our bones, but that words will never hurt us.
Sadly, I've watched words do far more damage than throwing a punch. Our skin protects us from those blows. The physical wounds heal. But words? They are the more powerful weapon. They cut through our skin and go straight to our heart. We can forgive them eventually, but we will never forget them.
Words can leave scars that last a lifetime.