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Word Wise: Words Can Hurt for a Lifetime

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Positive Word Cloud

Words Last a Lifetime

Let me share a childhood story about how words that seemed meaningless to someone else completely shattered my self-esteem in an instant.

I was about eight years old. Some relatives came to visit. I was minding my own business, on the floor, in the corner, putting a puzzle together when I overheard two adults engaged in light chatter. I happened to glance over at them and saw that they were looking at me when I heard Adult #1 say to Adult #2, “She’s turning out to be a pretty little girl.” And then I heard Adult #2 say, “Well, don’t tell her that or she might believe you.” Then the two of them giggled and went on to talk about other things. Little did they realize they had just shattered me to pieces, much like the puzzle I was working so hard to put together.

As a child, I relied on adults to guide me through life and I processed the comment made by Adult #2 to mean I was ugly. From that moment on, whenever anyone complimented me, I would politely say thank you, but behind my response was a damaged little girl who felt like people were just complimenting me to be nice. To this day, you don’t see me in a lot of photographs, because I don’t want to “mess up” the photo with my ugly mug.

Resolved But Not Settled

It's kind of like what happens when people lose over 100 pounds and still feel overweight. It's kind of like what happens when you hammer nails into a wall and then when you pull out the nails, the holes are still there. The hurt stays even when the issue is resolved.

Friends, after reading this confession, please don’t respond with, “But, Marlene, you’re so pretty!” Seriously, please don’t do that. My brain still processes such comments to mean, “You’re ugly, but I just want to say something nice to you.”

Yeah, I’ve got issues and I’m working on them all.

I share this confession with you to say that words are powerful. What we say to someone today could affect how that person feels for a lifetime. Recently, I heard a mother telling her child he was “stupid.” I felt bad for the child, because I know from personal experience that there is a possibility of that child growing up all their life feeling unintelligent and uninspired to do great things.

Note: I’m not claiming that parents are the sole reason for a child’s mal-adjustment. Certainly, other environmental interactions, such as schools, playground activities, and sports play a critical role as well. Parents who use un-inspirational words merely contribute to the issue of a child’s discontent.

A Word About Respect and Directing Children

When you have respect for someone, your words tend to be more positive, consequently, people tend to respond to you in a favorable way.

Respect and how it relates to words

If your child respects you, he or she has a desire to follow your directions, good or bad, so you must be careful about the words you use to direct them.

If children respect the parents who direct them, they will take the direction to heart. So when parents are berating and belittling children, the children may grow up with little self-respect. They may have trouble properly identifying their worth and character. Parents who have children who are lazy and mal-adjusted should take a moment to think about the words he or she may have said to their children over the course of their lives. In doing so, parents may find that they have spoken words that cause their children to feel uninspired or unwilling to assimilate.

Parents who have children who shine and do well, deserve a pat on the back for the encouraging words they use to build up and polish their children.

Disrespect and how it relates to words

If your child disrespects you, he or she may not want to listen to you or follow any directions you give them.

If children disrespect the parents who direct them, it is likely the children will throw the parents' directions out the window, disregard them, and rise in spite of what the parents say to them. It is still likely, and most probable that these children may fall in spite of disregarding the parents' directions as they try to make it through life on their own accord.

Words are Powerful

My mother use to say, “If you can’t say anything nice to someone, don’t say anything at all.” I suspect a lot of parents say that to their children.

Biblical people are commanded to speak kind words to one another.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

– Ephesians 4:29 New International Version

Now, as an adult looking back at the day I heard those adults talking, I suspect they did not have malicious intensions. I suspect they were simply two people chit-chatting and joking around, not realizing I was there, hearing and taking it all in. I respected them, so their words were held in the highest regard. They didn’t realize a little girl was processing their words and assimilating those words into a form that would become the very essence of that little girl’s being.

So I caution people to be careful what is said to and around others. You never know who is listening and how they are processing what you say.

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Words are powerful tools. Positive words build people up. Negative words tear people down. Be mindful, be aware, and use words wisely.

Disclaimer About Words

I’m not a psychologist. I’ve never trained to be a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. The observation I share here is based solely on personal experience. I share my story and experience with the hope that you may become more aware of the power of words and realize how you have the power to use words for the goodness of mankind.

Watch This Inspirational Video About Words

People have watched the following video over 3,356, 246 times. It is an inspirational message about words and how words are powerful enough to help you achieve your dreams.

In this video, award winning actor, producer, singer, and songwriter Will Smith shares how words affect the outcome of everything we do. Smith says, "There's no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts from Plan A."

Watch this short video and be inspired to accomplish your lifelong goals.

Your Words And Thoughts Have Physical Power


Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 29, 2020:

Hello Chinexjr7. You are so right. This experience taught me a lot about feelings and has taught me how to be a parent who listens and uses words wisely so as not to create lifelong scars.

Chinexjr7 on July 11, 2020:

Parent should know children have feelings too, certain words can make them hate or love them.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on May 25, 2020:

Hello Peachy,

I know from experience that children hold on to impactful memories for a very long time.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on May 24, 2020:

Your mom is absolutely right

Say something that is nice to a child, never look down or disregard the child feeling

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on May 07, 2020:

Hello Marcy!

Thank you for sharing the story about your daughter. It is a reminder that words can hurt for a lifetime.

Marcy Bialeschki from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 07, 2020:

I can relate to the words you have had to live with that were randomly spoken but have left a scar. My youngest daughter was a very inquisitive child, and she talked a lot. When she was about 6, an older family member told her she talked too much and no one liked a little kid who talked too much. She is still haunted by those words even though as an adult now. I'm thankful for your article as a warning for people to be mindful of their words. They can linger for a lifetime.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on February 11, 2019:

Your visual of filling the glass with goodness resonates with me so well. When the glass is overflowing, all that goodness spreads out and gets on everything around it. So now you are living a life where evil has no way to enter and you are spreading goodness everywhere you go. I like that!

DREAM ON on February 11, 2019:

I like to reread hubs that I like over again sometime in the future. This is one of those hubs. I see if I remember what I read before. Hopefully, I pick up one more good point that I forgot. Most people like to change their minds often I like to reinforce all the good things that I know then I know there will absolutely be no room for bad. I think of my life as a water glass. I try to fill it up with as much good as possible. Then when it overflows I know only good will spill out. Even if other people try to spread bad ideas or thoughts there is no room for them to go. They give up and find someone else easier to spread their meanness. I know it works for me but I wonder if other people feel the same way? Have a great Monday. Thank you for taking the time to share some important work.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on April 04, 2017:

Hello DREAM ON! I absolutely enjoy reading your comments. You inspire me. I think I will watch the video again for a personal reboot.

DREAM ON on April 04, 2017:

I watched your video about your words and thoughts have physical power with Will Smith and I absolutely loved it. I have always believed and I am so motivated and in awe when people reinforce what everyone should understand and believe to live a better life. Thank you so much for sharing.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on April 03, 2017:

Hello DREAM ON. I can say from experience that words have a great impact on us. I am sorry about what happened between you and your brother. It always hurts more when it is family members. I am glad you found a way to raise your self esteem and glad you know I care.

DREAM ON on April 01, 2017:

You explained so much in your hub. Words do hurt and I have my own personal experiences where my own brother thought he was better than me and if anyone in school asks if we are related you don't know me. It hurts me to this day. I looked up to my big brother and I couldn't forget what he said. I found ways of building my own self esteem as I keep trying to forgive him. Thank you for sharing and caring.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on February 07, 2017:

You are so right, simplehappylife. Parenting can be really hard. I want to be the parent that my children can rely on, but at the same time I want to be like a friend. The two don't always go hand-in-hand, so most of the time I opt to be a parent who is mindful of my words and how they may be ultimately received.

simplehappylife on February 07, 2017:

This is so true. I try to be very mindful of how I communicate with my children (one is 16 yrs old, and the other is 8 yrs old) and how they communicate with me.

I have no problem self-correcting in front of them or even apologizing for saying something the wrong way. I'm in no way perfect, but my honesty with them has helped us bond even closer. I self-analyze constantly and am always working toward being encouraging instead of discouraging while allowing them plenty of space to express themselves and develop into their own individuality with their own opinions (while remaining respectful of me as well as each other). It's a tough balance to strike at times, but for the most part, it has been great. LOL, parenting can be so hard at times :)

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on January 06, 2017:

Thank you, Vellur, for commenting. Through the years, I have come to learn the value of words and how they affect others. My goal in life is to be a positive speaker of words.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 06, 2017:

Words can make or break a relationship; we should be careful how we use them and teach our children too. Great hub, wisdom in your words, thank you for sharing.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on January 18, 2016:

Hello Rabadi. Thank you for your feedback. And, thank you for following me. I am sure I will enjoy reading your articles as well.

TruthisReal from New York on January 17, 2016:

I agree with your article, a lot of wise words being said, therefore I am now following you, please check out some of my articles :) Thanks


Al Wordlaw from Chicago on December 31, 2015:

Hi Marlene, this is great sound advice. I really agree with"if you can't say something nice then say nothing at all." It feels so good living via God's Kingdom. I thank God that there is no negativity coming into or going out of my life. Nice video of Will's ideas. At last I live in peace, get my bills paid and have my needs met. I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year and keep selling houses as I will also in the New Year 2016!

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 31, 2015:

Hi gerimcclym. Thank you for your feedback. You have a very fine hub about affirmative words. I really enjoyed reading it.

Geri McClymont on December 29, 2015:

A very powerful article on a very important topic. Words cannot be taken back after they leave our mouths, so we should always consider their impact and think twice before we speak. The video on Will Smith was very inspiring too. Thanks for sharing!

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 18, 2015:

Hello RTalloni. You are a wise person. As a child, I was hurt to hear that I should not be considered pretty. Now, as an adult, I get that the person didn't want me to grow up prideful. That comment, early in my development certainly got the job done. I grew up feeling ugly and felt like people were lying if ever they complimented me. I know better now. Still, I work hard to translate compliments for what they are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

RTalloni on December 18, 2015:

Your willingness to share your experience and what you learned from it is important for yourself and others--thank you. Pretty is as pretty does, and this beautiful. May it help others to be careful of their selfishness in conversation! It's so easy to come across in a way we don't mean, so your example of giving the adults the benefit of the doubt is a great example to hurting people. BTW, my first thought was that the one who said not to tell you how pretty you are said it because she knew doing so could make you prideful…but I was not there to hear it, to see their attitude, etc...nor a little child when I read it. :) So glad to read that you have been recuperating well. Do continue to take care!

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 09, 2015:

Thank you, ChitrangadaSharan, for your well-wishes.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 09, 2015:

Hello DDE, I have been away for a while. It is good to come back to see you here. Thank you for reading and for your feedback.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 09, 2015:

Hi MarleneB!

I was not aware about your health issues. Please do take good care of yourself. I am concerned and I hope and pray for your quick recovery.

Wish you all the best! Take care!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 09, 2015:

You greatly mentioned useful points here. Definitely a worthy post.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 08, 2015:

Hello ChitrangadaSharan. It is good to hear from you. I've been out for a long time. I've had two surgeries and going into a sleep clinic today to find out how I can get a little bit of sleep at night. Anyway, you are right, with regard to children, we must be very careful when talking to them.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 07, 2015:

Wonderful hub and excellent advice! Words can certainly scar for life. Therefore we must think twice before saying something. A physical wound can get healed but it is very difficult to get healed if someone's 'words' has caused the hurt. We must be especially careful with the children

Great hub and nice video.

It is so nice to read your hub after a long time and I understand it is your 100th hub. Congratulations and wish you all the best!

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 24, 2015:

Hello ladyguitarpicker. I can't tell you how many times I have been hurt by words. They are sharper than knives because they cut through the soul. But, you are so right that we need to love ourselves so that harsh words no longer have the ability to hurt.

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on November 24, 2015:

This is so true and a good lesson we all need. I think my heart was broken from the words people have said. The good news is I continue to prove them wrong. Just love yourself. Stella

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 02, 2015:

Thank you, Amanda Abbott. Your feedback adds confirmation to the message about how words can have a significant impact on a child's life.

Meredith McLarty from Sioux City, IA on November 02, 2015:

Wow. I love that video. Words are very powerful. People usually don't think of how even one word can change someone else sees the world and themselves in an instant. Your note: "I’m not claiming that parents are the sole reason for a child’s mal-adjustment. Certainly, other environmental interactions, such as schools, playground activities, and sports play a critical role as well. Parents who use un-inspirational words merely contribute to the issue of a child’s discontent." is true, but love begins in the home. If your own parents aren't encouraging you to strive then they'll eventually push you away and get upset with you for not having any respect for them. I know this because I have no respect for mine. So I completely relate to your article. Keep up the good work!

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

Hello manatita44. Your words are always kind and rewarding. I am, indeed, resting right now. I only write when I am inspired to do so and only when the words come naturally. I am living quietly waiting for direction and in the meantime I will enjoy what our Father brings for me to enjoy. Right now, I am enjoying the peacefulness of having the freedom of taking as much time as I need to recuperate from surgery.

manatita44 from london on October 26, 2015:


You do not always have to write. Loving oneself can be so meaningful, so profound! Watch the Temple like a Silent witness. Listen to the inner Pilot and act accordingly. I would say that if you are not up to par, then rest. Still, who knows the ways of the Lord? Listen ...!

" There is always hope for any man, who can prayerfully cry in the morning, and soulfully smile in the evening." -Sri Chinmoy.

"Be kind, be all sympathy, for each and every Soul, is forced to fight against himself." - Sri Chinmoy.

"It is an exceptional privilege, to have the beauty of a serene mind, the purity of a loving Heart, and the divinity of a humble life."- Sri Chinmoy.

"The Earth is the Lord's, and its fullness thereof, and they that dwell there in it."

"Let not your Heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid ....."

"What!Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, that God dwells in you, and that you are not your own?"

"For lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of time."

Somehow I felt like sharing, Marlene. The last four are from our loving Scriptures. God bless you!

manatita44 from london on October 26, 2015:

I will pray for your recovery, Marlene. Much Love.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

Very true, BlossomSB. I try to hold back and "feel" what the other person will feel if I were to say this or that. If I would be hurt under the same circumstances, I keep my mouth shut.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

Hello manatita44. I am recuperating from surgery. I am resting and all is going well. Thank you for your encouragement. I'd like to keep writing, but want to write about things that are significant. I am in prayer over what direction to go.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

True, Suzanne Day. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. Still, once the words come out, we do better to make the adjustment to balance things out. I think we have to pour out an abundance of positive words to make those adjustments work because it's like the fence with the nails pulled out - the holes are still there. Even if we fill the holes with putty, the holes are now holes with putty in them. All we can do is our best and it sounds like you have done a wonderful job of bringing your children up in a wonderful and loving atmosphere.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

Hello denise.w.anderson. Every experience is a learning adventure that gives us the opportunity to be wiser and able to help others get through life in this difficult world. Your children have the benefit of your wisdom in showing them the positive things you learned from your negative experience.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

So true, MsDora. We do have the power to replace false words with true words. For me it is a process of translation. Like, whenever someone speaks to me in Spanish I still have to translate it in my head from Spanish to English before I can respond. It took me years to learn how to overcome my negative experience. While I now know the truth, I still have to process it in my head before I can respond. I'm working on being more fluent. I'm looking forward to the day when I can respond without having to translate the false words language to true words language.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

Indeed, billybuc, words are very important. And, as writers, we have a privileged command of words, so we have an opportunity to build up extra strong foundations in people.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

Hello Jodah. Yes. Words can be weapons of mass destruction. I'm glad you enjoyed the video. I'm really impressed with the things Will Smith has accomplished in his life. He attributes his success to being around positive people who spoke words of wisdom to him.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 26, 2015:

Hi Ericdierker. Thank you for your response. The Lord blessed me with an experience that taught me to be very aware of my words. He also blessed me with beautiful children who deserve to be treated with care. Whenever I speak to my children, I am extremely careful with my words. By the way, thank you for your prayers for my recovery.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on October 22, 2015:

So often what we say can be easily misconstrued. We really do need to use that old adage, 'Before opening mouth, put brain into gear!'

manatita44 from london on October 22, 2015:

A beautiful Hub, and Will Smith does a great job in this video. Hope that all is well. Keep on writing. Excellent Hub for serving our Higher ideals. Love.

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on October 22, 2015:

This is so true. Children are still learning about the world and themselves through others and those first instances of negative impressions do a lot of damage.

As a parent, I have found myself accidentally being a bit judgemental in my comments about them without noticing at the time. I make up for it as much as I can by showing and telling my children how much I love them (very much) and being very vocal about a host of positive skills, talents and things about them. I take care to listen, to respond to their jokes and creativity and to show them respect as people who are inherently deserving of it.

Though it would be better if I could stop myself when the things I'd rather not say come out, making up for it by balancing it with many good things and the unconditional love and attention is certainly something that helps balance children and avoid boxing them in so they don't dwell on only a little feedback from the adults around them.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on October 22, 2015:

I have also learned this lesson from painful personal experience. As a result, I tried to raise my children using words that uplift and strengthen them. For the most part, they have grown up to be respectful adults, with a desire to help those around them. We would all do well to take this advice to heart!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 22, 2015:

Especially with children, Marlene. Young minds soak up the words they hear and it could take a lifetime to wring them out. Without negating the effect of negative words, know that we have the responsibility to deal with them and replace them in our minds with what we know is the truth. Very important article!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2015:

I was a teacher for eighteen years....a parent for longer....what you say is so important. We have the ability to lift up, and we have the ability to shatter....words are so very important.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 21, 2015:

Go get them Marlene, prayers are with you for a successful procedure.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 21, 2015:

Hello everyone! I am on my way to have surgery and wanted to stop by here to let you know that I will respond to your comments within a few days. Until then, thank you very much for your valuable feedback.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2015:

This is a wonderful hub and excellent advice Marlene. Words can certainly scar for life. I heard a quote recently "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words - words can be weapons of mass destruction..." I love that Will Smith video, what an intelligent human being he is.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 20, 2015:

A wonderful look into our being. Perhaps someday we will be able to teach our youth to look inward for all validation and skyward for all truth. Our preciousness resides in a space much larger than us. I am thankful that I have been given the blessing of taking time to care about my impact on children. I pray that more will be so blessed. Well done on a great insight into an important aspect of our life.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 20, 2015:

I totally agree with you Farawaytree. Children are vulnerable and a quick word placed here and there can either harm or hurt them for life.

Farawaytree on October 20, 2015:

Great hub! I know the things said to children sometimes are unnecessary and harmful. I wish some adults would learn to keep certain words in their heads not on their tongues

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