Dana Pope

By Dana Pope

Words Can Kill… and Do

Words Can Kill… and Do 150 150 Dana Pope

Recently, 20-year old Michelle Carter has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison. This is an unprecedented case in that Carter sent texts to her friend, Conrad Roy III, telling him to kill himself. Roy, who was 18, rigged a generator to his pickup truck, jumped in the vehicle and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The fatal incident occurred in 2014 in Massachusetts. There has never been a case of manslaughter where words alone caused someone’s death.

Michelle Carter received the sentence which includes the stipulation that she spend at least 15 months in prison. The judgment was immediately stayed to determine how to handle a case like this.

It is unusual since words were actually the killer of the depressed boy. While Roy was in the car he was texting Carter, who sent numerous taunting texts about “just do it.” Some of the things she sent to him were:

“The time is right and you are ready…”

            “You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t.”

At one point Roy ran out of the car to get some air. Carter texted him to “get back in” his truck, which he did.  Consequently, Roy died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz found that the texts “constituted wanton and reckless conduct.”

I wrote about this exact subject, “Words Can Kill” in my book “Who’s Changing the Meaning?”  Here is an excerpt:

“Words are powerful. They can set our mood, change our beliefs, determine our actions and motivate or cripple our life. A positive comment from someone can lift our spirits and have us soaring throughout the day. Conversely, a negative comment can depress us facing the day with a bad attitude. That’s how powerful words are. Or should I say that’s how powerful we allow words to be. 

Words can kill. They can affect our health. Studies have shown that words have a biochemical effect on us. The medical field recognizes that the healing system is tied to the belief system. The best example is when a person seeks treatment for an ailment and the diagnosis is bad. Time and again the person will get worse once they find out the cause of their illness. They had the illness before the news but once they hear the diagnosis, they start to act the way patients with that illness act.

 It doesn’t have to be that way. People can say what they want and usually do. We can’t stop others from saying negative things about us or telling us how to act, but we do have the choice on how to handle those words. We decide how we are going to let the words alter who we are and what we do. We have the ability to control how it affects us. We don’t agree with their words so why would we give weight to them. Instead of letting the words hurt us, we let them go. 

Ignoring something that is said about us or to us can be difficult to do. Yet it is such an effective way to live. If an individual says something bad about us and we ignore it the person has failed to achieve their intent. We need to realize that if someone speaks out against us that is their right; freedom of speech baby. The insult is not where our focus should be. Our focus is to remember that we don’t care what they think. If someone is belligerent enough to talk bad about us, why would we value their opinion!”

Teens, in particular, are deeply affected by what others say about them. They take in the words and allow them to live inside. They need to realize, as we all do, that words do not control us. We control the words and what we do with them.

I don’t know what the outcome of Michelle Carter’s appeal will be. We need to remember that we have the choice on how words will affect us. The power of words can be diffused by us. We take over the power by deciding to discard the words and move on. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me is not true. They can if we let them.