|Copyright V. Nona Ogunsula 2010|
A Massachusetts District Attorney believed that the bullying as well as other actions by Phoebe's classmates were a contributing factor in her death and indicted six teenagers from South Hadley High School with various felony charges ranging from civil rights violations to stalking for the acts that led to the young girl's death. Newspaper reporter Kevin Cullen stated in a Boston Globe article on August 1, 2010, that Phoebe's father, Jeremy Prince, does not think the teens charged in the case should go to prison as long as they acknowledge what they did to Phoebe and apologize for it.
Very early children learned the importance of words. From the first moment they begin to speak discernible words, they are rewarded with smiles, claps, hugs, and out and out glee by almost everyone who is in hearing distance. Well, that's the case if they speak or repeat the "right" words and not the "bad" words that sometimes they inadvertently pick up. Parents and teachers tell them, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you". For young children, this adage is supposed to discourage them from resulting to physical violence motivated by the words of an antagonist. But as they grow older, they begin to comprehend that words can be used as weapons. In fact, hurtful words can leave an impression and hurt that takes longer to heal than actual physical wounds.
Time supposedly heals all wounds. But as I learned from over hearing a discussion on wound care last week, time by itself is not enough to ensure that a wound heals correctly. The kind of treatment a wound receives will determine if the wound heals properly. The representative that I spoke to from Johnson and Johnson stressed that their innovative wound care products make the difference in the healing process. So then, we can safely deduce that something else besides time is needed for a successful healing process.
It's the right kind of treatment. But, what is the right kind of treatment? I believe that the answer lies in the message and the motivation behind the words used in the healing process. A Biblical proverb challenges us in the following way, "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose." (Proverbs 18:21 The Message Bible)
The situation involving the death of Phoebe Prince is tragic not only for her family, but for the students and all others who have been impacted by the situation. Although the bullying at South Hadley High School may not have been the only factor in her death, many of us would have to struggle not to admit that it was a contributing factor in her decision to take her own life. The moral of this story for all of us, young and old alike, is we should choose to speak life more often than not. (See the links below for articles about the incident in Massachusetts.)
Here are some examples of three words that when spoken together from the heart can have a powerful effect on lives of loved ones:
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
I love You.
I want you.
I need you.
God loves you.
What are three of your most powerful words?
Articles on the Phoebe Prince:
1. Cullen, K., (2010, January 24). The Untouchable Mean Girls. The Boston Globe.
Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/01/24/the_untouchable_mean_girls/
2. Brazelon, E.,( 2010, July 20). Could the South Hadley Schools Have Done More, Slate.
Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/id/2260952
3. Cullen, K., (2010, August 1). Grieving Father Seeks Justice, Not Vengeance. The Boston Globe Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/08/01/phoebe_princes_father_seeks_justice_not_vengeance/