The original version of this post was published at feministmormonhousewives.org on April 11, 2015 under the title “Words Can Hurt!” I wrote it to express my reactions to the March/April 2015 General Conference. With the September/October 2015 General Conference scheduled to start this week, I felt that some of the sentiments and thoughts expressed in the original version merited a second posting.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
When I was a little girl and someone one would say something mean or hurtful about me or one of my friends, we would join hands and repeat this statement like some sort of mantra, hoping against hope that the words that we were saying could convince our minds and our hearts that the words that we had heard really did not hurt us.
Deep down, we knew that the statement was a lie.
It still is a lie.
Words can and do hurt. They can and do make a person feel excluded, unwanted, unloved, unacceptable, and unimportant. They can and do steal a person’s confidence, wreak havoc on a person’s self esteem, and create paralyzing self doubt.
A lot of hurtful words have been said to me during the 58 years that I have been on this earth. I have been mocked and teased about everything from my poor vision and my lack of athletic ability to the timbre and tone of my voice and my speech patterns to my height and/or weight and my skin color. Sometimes the hurt and the pain have been compounded by the fact that people who I thought should understand my feelings have labeled me as “too sensitive” or told me that I was “choosing to be offended.”
I have also heard a lot of hurtful words directed not just at me but at groups of people that included me. Those words permeate the political arena and they permeate social media. While those words are deplorable in both those situations, we enter the political arena and social media fully aware that we are interacting with people who not only may disagree with us, but who may not share our religious or moral views about how we should conduct ourselves when we do disagree with each other. As such, we know and even expect that words may be used as weapons against us.
It is a different situation we when are in our sacred places. There, we are interacting with people who profess to share the same religious beliefs as we do — beliefs that teach us to love one another. As such, it is especially painful when hurtful words are said to in us in those places.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our semi-annual General Conferences are heralded as special times for us to hear from our leaders. We are encouraged to devote the better parts of two entire days to listening to and/or attending General Conference. We are told that we will be edified, uplifted, and inspired.
I have been a member of the LDS Church for eight years. I have listened to every General Conference that has been held during those years and have traveled to Utah to attend three times. There have been many words spoken at those General Conferences that lifted and inspired my heart, my mind, and my soul. Unfortunately, there have also been many hurtful words spoken over the podium during those years and there have been many moments when I ached either on my own behalf or on behalf of my friends and loved ones.
I believe that our Church leaders see it as their role to provide us with advice and counsel about how to conduct our lives. I also believe that they are motivated by love for us. I am not asking them to cast aside their beliefs or even to hide their lights under any bushels.
I am simply asking them to remember that words can hurt.
I am simply asking them to listen to and be guided by the sentiments so ably expressed by Fozzie from The Muppet Babies in this song – “Words Can Hurt.”