(Last Updated On: June 20, 2019)
By: Sharon Branch – Contributor
Spiders are creepy and are surely not one of my favorite animals. Eww! Like many of their kind, they have a strategy of control and ultimate destruction over their prey. While hunting, most of these animals have the same basic kill strategy. They pierce their prey with fangs, injecting enough venom to paralyze it. This makes it safe for the spider to feed without any struggle.
Bullies and domineering individuals also use this controlling strategy. They use negative criticism to paralyze their victims, rendering them so weak, that they are unable to think anything good about themselves.
Growing up, my friends and I would use the slogan,
Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never harm me.
As I matured over the years, I have come to realize that this is far from the truth. Words sting, they hurt, they pierce, they wound, and they burn deep inside the psyche. They leave scars which remind us of the pain.
Some of us were paralyzed by negative words, and to appear untouched by what was said, we retaliated by reciting “Sticks and stones…” We were the victims of these ‘spiders’ back then, and we used this strategy as a defense mechanism when our backs were against the wall.
Negative words are like fangs piercing deep into the core of our being. They can cripple, hinder and add unnecessary burden to lives. Unless words of hope and forgiveness are used to counteract what was said, victims become traumatized and immobile, much like that prey in the spider’s web.
Now imagine, if one negative remark can potentially affect an individual for life, then what about the nonstop assault of these painful statements throughout a lifetime? I can answer that because I was a victim of verbal abuse.
Over twenty years ago, I was told that I wasn’t accustomed to anything good, and when I see “goodness,” I wouldn’t be able to recognize it. Would you believe after all this time that comment still rings in my ears? Did it hurt? Yes, it definitely did, but I shouldn’t have allowed this lie to paralyze me.
My response could have been; “Duh! All the more reason I’m able to recognize ‘goodness.’ Wouldn’t good be easier to spot since I’m not accustomed?”
If you have never experienced verbal abuse or negative criticism, dealing with it can be challenging. This is because the impact of those negative words also depends on who is talking? If a stranger had uttered those same words, they would have had little effect, if any. However, the person who did was close and very dear to me. This can make the process of dealing with our emotions much more difficult.
The Power of Affirmation – Inspiring Young Minds
Children suffer greatly from cruel words. Imagine having to endure criticism repeatedly from such a young and impressionable age. Children reproduce their environment, and will most likely raise their own offspring, based on how they were brought up.
As a lover of children and one who has worked with them for over thirty years, I know the importance of affirming young minds. I have seen children who are not necessarily ‘smart,’ perform reasonably well after ‘failing’ in previous classes.
As a teacher, one approach which I have used throughout the years that has worked well is
I constantly drill into the heads of the ‘weak’ children how smart they are. I assure them that they can accomplish anything, as long as they have the right attitude. My philosophy is that a child should never have to put up with criticism at home and also at school.
When my son discovered that I was using this strategy, he was quick to give me a lecture. He’s always accusing me of misleading my kids – by giving them the impression that they are smart. This results in a side-splitting laugh from him as he tries to get me to recant my method. But he has missed the whole point of reassurance.
I have seen shy children become confident and outspoken, weak children trying harder to succeed, and others who have always hated the classroom, now looking forward to being there early on mornings. If that is what affirmation can do for a child, then I have accomplished a great mission.
The Effects of Criticism on Children – Our Future
On the other hand, I have also seen children constantly criticized and told they weren’t going to amount to anything… or how dumb they were. Sadly, these never tried. They showed little interest in school and welcomed any opportunity to stay outside the classroom. Their resulting attitude became, “Why should I show any interest at all when I have already been deemed a failure?”
These children have become the prey caught in the spider’s web when they should have been allowed to spread their wings and fly freely. Can you imagine the degree of pain and fear on a child’s mind if they are being fed this steady diet of criticism?
Negative Words in Relationships
But children are not the only ones affected by negative words; so are older people. In relationships where we strive for approval, it hurts when we are rebuffed or put down by our friends or loved ones. Spouses who try hard to please the other but yet their efforts are rewarded with criticism, soon shun being in the other’s presence. Eventually, they may wind their way into the arms of others or in the company of those who affirm them.
Friendships are torn apart by hurtful words, yet parties involved refuse to speak up. Children are often told they must be seen and not heard and with respect being the order of the day, they have to sit and take what is being dished out by adults. However, there should be mutual respect, and an open forum among adults so that when words hurt, they can feel free to speak. Unfortunately, this is not the case and so, once thriving relationships, subsequently wither and die.
If you are a victim of negative words, it can be hard to remove yourself from this mindset and move forward, but it’s not impossible. It is sad that many people have a spider mentality and use their words to prey on others rather than to build them up.
If you are a “spider,” you will need to perfect the art of speaking kind words to others. Help them become role-models, fruitful, successful, confident: the people God intended them to be. Take responsibility for your words and understand that you wield the power of life and death in your tongue. Speak life.
To encourage and contribute to the positive development of another human being is one of the greatest joys of human existence. Invest positively in the lives of others so you can get a great return on your investment. Plant seeds of encouragement and reap a good harvest.
Sticks and stones can hurt but words of God spoken over you (about your purpose) is greater than the negative words of man. How about the words of loved ones who spoke well of you? Shouldn’t that matter too?
What if we all chose to believe only the words that matter, with our whole heart.
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