"Your words can either hurt or heal. What did your words do today?" This is a question a school teacher had asked her class at the end of the day. Hm. What would my response be?
Ok. I'll be the first to admit that I've chosen words to intentionally hurt other people and that name-calling has previously been a rather unhealthy way for me to relieve stress. In fact, I've probably relished negative name-calling a bit too much in the past.
And in talking about this with my husband, I did just laugh hysterically at Peter Griffin's line "Holy Crip, he's a crapple!" (Yes, I'm still chuckling as I type it and frantically searching for a youtube link so that you can too. Alas, the search is to no avail...) But sitcom behavior and what one finds funny fall under a completely different category than name-calling. And, for the record, I don't watch Family Guy in front of my kids.
Now that my miserable confession is out of the way, I'd like to be the first to admit that I also keep name-calling in check. I refrain from name-calling in front of my children because I get that it's not positive behavior and that in excess it can be detrimentally unhealthy to growing intellects and self-esteems. I also get that children don't get it.
To put (negative) name-calling into perspective, it is petty, immature behavior that rarely has healthy side-effects. Yes, it is often used to express anger, hurt feelings, and frustration and anything else that drums up passion. These are all normal, valid emotions and it's perfectly normal to want to respond (to an issue, a debate, an idea, etc.) in a passionate manner - but this passion can be handled and expressed in a way that doesn't drag others through the mud. (Whaaaa?)
Most people can say they've been victims of name-calling. Most people are aware of the effects of direct name-calling. It destroys character, derides self-esteem and erodes any foundation of positive self-image.
But did you know that indirect name-calling does the same thing? And that you full-heartedly participate in indirect name-calling by verbally attacking another person's character? Do it in front of your children and you can subsequently tear down their character and self-worth as well.
Now, mind you, it's one thing to point out in front of your children that another person's behavior is abhorrent. As parents, we do it all the time. It defines behavior and it is how we teach children the acceptable way to act in society. (Such as: "Wow. She's dressed immodestly.") However, it is another thing to bad-mouth a person. (Such as: "Wow. Look at the slut!") The latter labels. And labels stick.
I mentioned that kids don't get it. The thing is, when you call someone an ass in front of another adult, more often than not said adult gets that you are frustrated, dislike, or are angry with that someone, not that said someone is necessarily an ass (and this may depend on how much value people put on your opinion). Typically, other adults don't internalize your name-calling. Children, on the other hand, have not yet developed that ability to distinguish between what should and what shouldn't be internalized. So, they internalize everything. Because that's how they learn. They bring it into their most intimate world, review it, dissect it, shape-sort it, and apply it. To everything. Not just to that which is outside themselves but to everything that they are.
And name-calling is included in that. As an adult, when we attack another person's character in front of our children, we essentially indirectly attack our children's character. No? Don't believe me?
Want to know one of the main reasons why discrimination and bigotry are still so rampant in our society? Name-calling. Simple as that.
Making verbal personal attacks in front of other human beings who are incapable of understanding a simple form of stress-relief and identity separation not only teaches but re-enforces demeaning behavior.
Negative labeling of character teaches our children that other people are lesser human beings and that those people will always be lesser beings because, well, labels are definitive, they stick. Utilizing this behavior in front of children also raises them to be closed-minded individuals, unable to grow mentally, emotionally, and socially to their full potential because not only do these children believe that it's acceptable to denigrate other humans, they have been taught it's acceptable to host the same skewed theories about themselves.
Name-calling also gives our kids the impression that they have the right to judge and/or diagnose the mental, emotional, and physical health of others without regard to any proper qualifications whatsoever. (Watching Oprah and/or Dr. Phil does not count as qualification. Sorry.) This behavior teaches children to disproportionately inflate their own self-image. It teaches that anyone who is different from us (in appearance, views, social status, etc.) is worth less than we are (because our views are so much more holier than theirs). This leads to a lifetime of inherent misunderstanding and misapplication of what is good/bad, right/wrong. Inherently, children who grow up around consistent name-calling and attacks of the spirit learn that "everything outside of me is bad" which translates into "everything inside of me is bad".
And, hm, how do I shout this? REPEATEDLY TELLING YOUR CHILDREN THEY ARE LOVED AND WONDERFUL WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY TEARING DOWN OTHER PEOPLE'S CHARACTER SENDS A DOUBLE-MESSAGE, LEAVING CHILDREN CONFUSED AND UNABLE TO FIND STABILITY WITHIN THEIR OWN PSYCHE, SERIOUSLY DEPLETING ANY STORES OF CONFIDENCE, ESTEEM, AND WORTH THEY MAY HAVE BEEN BORN WITH.
GOT IT? Oh, sorry, guess I can take off the caps-lock now. (cough)
For me it's not always a cake walk to put name-calling in check. Especially when I'm passionate about something. I'm only human and it's not everyday I hit the Super Mom mark. But I've listened to myself when I'm passionate and argumentative - and when I start name-calling, I sound like an uneducated idiot.
I'd rather not be and I'd rather not raise one of those. I'll leave that notion to others because there sure seems to be plenty of them in this world.
So, what did you do with your words today?