The old sticks and stones adage about words not hurting us doesn’t seem to apply in today’s society. People get hurt or mad by terms they hear, inadvertently fueling that negativity by their responses and rewarding those who attempt to marginalize us.

Don’t counter negativity with additional negativity

While I don’t condone hurtful speech, I believe many of us increase its harmful impact by reacting to it. The people who hurl insults at us seek our reactions—something to know they’ve hit their mark, which reinforces their bad behavior. So by lashing back at them in anger or indignation or responding with sorrow, we reward their verbal attacks and they will continue to insult others.

You may choose to go on Facebook to rant or tell your friends about the situation. Please don’t. By doing so, all you’re doing is strengthening this lower energy by internalizing it and spreading it to more people. Instead, take a deep breath and consciously decide not to accept or hold those word weapons within you.

I believe this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:39 when he said, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” This advice holds true today. Our lack of a response can halt the spiral of negativity. Diminish the power of the speaker’s talk with silence.

Words only have power if we internalize them

If someone says something I find offensive, I shouldn’t assume the speaker is giving it the same gravity as I do. But even if the person means it in the worst possible way, I don’t have to assume their lower energy as mine.

There is a slang word referring to a woman’s body part that I find particularly crude. Once someone called me it—but you know what? While I internally cringed at hearing it, I didn’t let it further influence me. I refused to allow it to diminish me. And, I made the decision not to spend any more time with that person.

Speak kindly and respectfully

In person, online or over the phone, we should send wishes of well-being through our word choices. If someone offends us, send them divine love for healing, as we can’t comprehend their life challenges that make them nasty toward others.

Let us start here to make the world a better place.