A Thought for Today – The Power of Words

by Jayne Ozanne, Editor of ViaMedia.News following her C4 News interview

Jayne Ozanne (3)

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was brought up being told:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but calling names never hurt me”

I never did believe this, and I still don’t.  Names do hurt!  Words do hurt!  In fact, they can do irreparable damage.

At worst they can incite hatred, feed fear and lead to a hardening of prejudices that demonise “the other”.

At best they can bless, and bring hope and understanding, which in turn can bring life.

In my studies of International Diplomacy at Oxford University, I learnt about the relatively new theory of Constructivism within International Relations.  It is the study of how rhetoric can be used to create norms and practices in our society, for good and for ill, which in turn can affect power structures.

Norms and practices – the building blocks that determine what type of society we live in.  It is this that unites us, and indeed what define us – and it is these norms and practices that are ever evolving and changing.

What is “normal” for some can become a cloak for abuse by others.  Indeed, what may seem harmless playground banter to some will be seen as an aggressive attack on liberties by others.  Words count – the context in which they are spoken, count; and the person uttering them, counts.

Hence the uproar when a serving Cabinet Minister makes a crass schoolboy joke live on air, without – dare I say – any reproach from his interviewers.  For some it was a poor attempt at humour.  For others it was yet again an example of words re-enforcing a “norm” that has been for too long accepted by society – that of undermining the seriousness of sexual harassment encountered by women.  This is no laughing matter – especially by privileged heterosexual men who should know better.  The norm must change – and to do that the rhetoric must change.

The Apostle James had much to say about the power of the tongue, it “is a fire, a world of iniquity.”  He even went on to say that “no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” It is indeed the most powerful weapon we each have.

Without thinking we can wreak havoc and devastation in someone’s life, especially if we are seen to reinforce a norm that has served to create a prison cell.  As Sigmund Freud said: “Words have a magical power. They can either bring the greatest happiness or the deepest despair.”

I am conscious that here, on radio, we have only our words – making it even more essential that every single one counts.

Perhaps it is better to recall what Mother Theresa herself said:
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

This entry was posted in Jayne Ozanne, Sexism, Sexual abuse. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A Thought for Today – The Power of Words

  1. WhoisI? says:

    Yes, indeed, words have power and so do allegations such as ‘yes-it-was-done-unto-me-but-I-can’t-give-you-any-details-except-to-go-public-anyway’. Do you think God is fooled??

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jayne Ozanne says:

    I’ve chosen to publish this comment so that people can see what vile online trolling I get.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Janet Fife says:

    WhoisI?, God is most certainly not fooled, and knows the truth of what Jayne is saying. He also knows, and weeps over, the many, many people who have suffered at the hands of those who called themselves Christians, and have been silenced. Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. maccuscuria says:

    Ms Ozanne, why not formally report this alleged offence of rape to the police and ask for a criminal investigation? Additionally, you should trigger the Church of England procedures. Anything less discredits you and suggests this is about creating a media storm and seeking attention for reasons other than the good of the Church or the protection of others. At the moment this has the status of gossip and appears to be no more than grandstanding.


    • Jayne Ozanne says:

      I’m posting this comment too, as I am quite disgusted by the fact people are asserting all sorts of untruths. Of course there is a criminal investigation going on!


    • Janet Fife says:

      I think if you had seen Jayne’s interview on Channel 4 (https://www.channel4.com/news/lambeth-palace-facing-questions-about-accusations-of-abuse-of-woman-in-church-of-england), or read any of the other pieces published around Jayne’s story (a simple google search or a look at Thinking Anglicans will locate them), you would not have left this comment. At least, I hope you wouldn’t.

      It’s well known how hard it is for those who have been sexually assaulted to obtain justice, and how much they suffer for speaking out. It takes enormous courage, and those who do so speak for hundreds – if not thousands – of others who for one reason or another are not in a position to go public. To accuse someone like Jayne of ‘gossip’ and ‘grandstanding’ is just cruel.

      And I notice that you, unlike Jayne, haven’t given us your name.


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