Words are Acts

By: Melissa Nwaogu

Some contend that while words alone don’t mean much, deeds do. Although the concept is
common, it is not founded in fact. Words are incredibly important. They are actions, and they count just as
much as any other kind of action, if not more. People are influenced heavily by words and even when
you’re not attempting to be significant, words still have an influence. Words cause waves and carry
responsibility. Someone’s life, self-concept and mental health can be changed simply by your words.
Regardless of your intentions, you can have an impact on someone. You have the power to influence
someone in ways that go considerably beyond (or counter to) what you intended.

The law also acknowledges this. If you use the wrong words, you could end up in jail, even in
nations that pride themselves on their free speech laws. You could also be held liable and incur legal
responsibility for your words. Your comments have the power to harm someone’s mental health, put an
end to a job or a relationship, or even take their life. Therefore there is no justification for the frequent use
of insults like racist and sexist slurs, as well as ableist and derogatory terms like “SPED.”

I can assure you that your words have already had a profound impact on people and will
continue to do so in ways you cannot even imagine. How frequently have you thought back on someone
else’s words without letting them know? Perhaps you read these phrases in a book or newspaper. Perhaps
a friend’s casual remark caught your notice. Maybe even someone who was just passing by. Did you ever
tell whoever said these words how much they meant to you? Is it important that the individual who
uttered those words might have had a different intention? Can the effects of their words still go beyond
what they intended? Does it matter that they believed their words weren’t significant or if they don’t value
words highly? Or what if they can’t even recall speaking or writing them? Whatever the intention and
expectation, words can nevertheless have a massive effect on you. Now consider how your words are
having a similar effect. Sometimes they will have an influence even if you don’t want them to or don’t
expect them to. And more frequently than you may be aware, this occurs.

Simply put, people aren’t telling you about the impact of what you say. Everyone around you
is keeping quiet about their additional internal processing, just as you are. Your words have a much bigger
effect than you can imagine or quantify. I therefore implore you all, the body of Milton District High
School, to choose your words carefully since impact is more crucial than intent.