We are living in a world where information — whether true or false — is widely available. Being informed is a good thing. Framing opinions as facts is something entirely different because our words have consequences.
As a young girl, I was very sensitive to the words of others. I remember coming home from school in tears over something someone had said to me. My mother’s response was always: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words never hurt me.”
I chanted that phrase until it was burned in my brain. Now, decades later, I know that phrase is a lie! Our words have consequences!
How does this relate to the present?
Social media has become a large part of our culture in the last 10-15 years. Personally, I love Facebook. It allows me to keep in touch with long-lost friends and relatives. I love the option to create a tribe of like-minded people to share thoughts and ideas. But it can also become a place to threaten, bully, and spread misinformation.
Recently, a member of one of my groups posted a long-quoted lie that has caused lots of damage to people in the group. As part of our rules against posting such information was violated, I quietly removed the remark and the member. The spouse of this member contacted me via FB Messenger and asked why I removed the person. I quoted the rules, and he openly admitted the misinformed quote that was removed. When I tactfully explained why the remark was misinformation, his response was: “We never knew that before; it was just what was always taught.”
Bingo! I had a moment of clarity.
Repeating misinformation or a lie often enough (and long enough) becomes true in most people’s eyes. There is no need to check the sources, research the truth — just accept it at face value.
Scary as it is, this quote was said by Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Communist Party in Russia, from 1917 to 1924.
Suddenly I understood a deeper truth: It is easier (in some cases) to believe and repeat a lie rather than to use critical thinking to research the topic ourselves.
Are we good stewards of our words when we repeat such misinformation? I think not!
Remember, our words have consequences, and some of them are not good!!