We humans feel proud to call ourselves “Ashraful makhlooqat”: the crown of creation. But why we are given this title and do we deserve it, especially in an era torn by hatred, selfishness, and corruption. These are questions we need to ask ourselves.
One of the unique human characteristics that differentiates us from lower animals is language: our ability to interact and communicate through words. Words have the power to make as well as break someone. With kind and encouraging words we can make someone heal, become a ray of hope in the dark night. At the same time, through toxic and inconsiderate words we can break someone’s spirit. We can destroy someone’s life. In order not to seem dramatic, let me mention some real incidents.
There is a girl in her 20’s. She is suffering from vitiligo, a disease that causes the loss of skin colour in blotches. She has white blotches all over her face and body. Though this is something that is not in her control, and above all is something that has no impact on others as it is non communicable, instead of showing sympathy to her, people add to her sufferings by calling her derogatory names like “Dab hurgaav” (two-shaded cow); khotmuhr (useless currency) . She fears to step outside because of the taunts and the bullying. Even some of her relatives don’t eat anything prepared by her, due to the fear that this disease may be transmitted to them. All such negative societal attitude is torturing her soul and making her feel that she is an ill omen. It is plunging her into depression and she feels that with her skin becoming colourless, her life too is becoming colourless. All her hopes and dreams are shattered. She does not find herself in a position to talk to anyone. She has lost confidence and has even attempted to end her life. She has huge potential to excel in academics and sports but it is our negative attitude that is making her feel incompetent and incomplete.
Same way there is another student in his late 20’s. His life has been an endless struggle. He was emotionally, psychologically and sexually abused. He was bullied since his childhood and to protect him from further harm, his parents confined him to four walls and this over-protectiveness of his parents turned his life upside down. Though he continued his studies but he only occasionally attended classes because of the fear of being bullied and ostracised. He has amazing writing skills and aspires to qualify the KAS exams. Besides, he wants to become a social activist and do something to help the needy and to raise his voice against social issues. He wants to psychologically empower other disabled children. But he fears to share his dreams and has little hope of actualising these dreams in a world that is always dragging him down and instilling self-doubt in him.
There are countless stories like these where dreams get shattered and life becomes hell, like a dark tunnel without any light, because of our wrong attitude and toxic words. There are many people who can excel in life but their potential and talent goes to waste because of our shaming. There are enough people in this world to drag you down and bully others. There are many to tell, “you are nothing/ you cannot achieve anything”. There are many to taunt and criticize. There are many to laugh at others. But in such a world of toxicity and insensitivity, let’s be a balm that can heal someone’s bruised soul. Let’s be someone who kindles the light of hope.
Cheer and encourage someone who is suffering and fighting a battle. Be sensible with the use of words. Think before you speak. Let’s ask ourselves: are my words killing or healing? Let’s imagine that if life put us in their shoes and the same toxic words were said to us, how would we feel? The future is always unpredictable; if today we bully and taunt a disabled person or infertile woman or any other person who does not fit our criteria, tomorrow we or our loved ones may be in their place. A mother-in-law who taunts her daughter-in-law for being infertile never knows what destiny has in store for her own unmarried daughters. A young man who calls some girl ugly because of her dark complexion/ burn marks/ skin disease never knows if tomorrow his own daughter may be sailing in the same boat.
Let us take a pledge to use positive and healing words. Let us take a pledge to encourage others. To boost their confidence and not fuel their self doubt. Teachers can make a huge difference. If teachers invest in psychologically empowering their students, they can give them wings to fly. The students, then, can not only set greater goals but also realise them.