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Words Fail

With the Dear Evan Hansen movie finally out, the soundtrack has constantly been on repeat. It includes well-written songs that relay messages of hurtful truths and hope. However, one song that specifically stands out is “Words Fail”. Not only does this song speak volumes, but it also makes us think if words really do fail sometimes.


Back when I was in ninth grade, I wrote a speech about the power of words for my final exam. I talked about the experiences I had when words destroyed me. Although experiences that display the ability of words to break someone were discussed, I never really elaborated on the aftermath.


Why is it that single phrases such as “You are not good enough” or “You are a failure” can easily make us question ourselves? It is often hard to take back one derogatory statement and replace it with multiple praises. Whenever someone unintentionally makes a snarky comment and tries to make the other person feel better by giving a compliment, it is only natural for them to remember the negative things that were mentioned.


The bottom line is sometimes words fail.


Broken promises


Ever since I was a young child, “promise” was such a big word to me. I feel like so many people out there can relate to this as well. It reassures us that people will follow through on their word and will continue to pull through no matter what. It also gives a sense of security knowing that someone is willing to commit to doing something for us. Promises hold so much emotional value because they allow us to build closer and stronger bonds with our loved ones.


Every time a promise is followed through, the trust builds up. However, once the word “promise” is used lightly, it loses its value. The first broken promise in every relationship is always one of the hardest because of the domino effect it brings. A broken promise may lead to broken trust and may even result in a rocky relationship.


In a more childlike set-up, we usually play a game called trust fall. I played this once with an old friend of mine, and she said, “I promise I’ll catch you.” As a child, I did not really think about the consequences I would receive if my friend did not catch me. After a few seconds of slowly leaning back, I hit my head hard and found myself on the floor. I clapped back and instantly reacted by saying, “Why didn’t you catch me?” She then tried to make me feel better by saying, “I promise I’ll catch you next time.”


In a more young adult set-up, one usually says, “I promise I’ll be here to catch you when you fall,” and we mean it in a figurative manner. When a problem comes up, people usually come rushing to help. However, when multiple problems start piling up; others sometimes just choose to step back and slowly disappear. Just like most people, I experienced a friend not being there for me when I needed them the most. Once I did recover from whatever was bothering me, the person said, “I promise I’ll be here next time.


In all stages of our lives, we’ve experienced and are going to experience different scenarios of these things happening. From literal to figurative trust falls, when one does not get caught, it is hard to trust a promise the next time around. Sometimes, a broken promise can result in a broken heart.


Words fail.


A sad invention


Like any other human being on this planet, we all have our fair share of insecurities. There are instances when social media can practically be a game of pretending to be someone or something you are not. It is so easy to edit how we look and use filters to hide the raw parts of ourselves.


Do not get me wrong, I have nothing against editing and using filters, but if we use it all the time, we sometimes forget to love ourselves for the way we truly are. Have you ever wondered that maybe words play a big role in this?


Criticisms about the way we look, move, and go about our days are often said in the most straightforward manner, especially in Asian families. During the annual meet-ups, a lot of us have probably heard, “Tumaba ka!” or “You got fatter lah!” It is very sad to even think that some people have to hear these on a daily basis.


Growing up hearing comments like those very often allowed me to develop certain coping and defense mechanisms. Oftentimes, I just go with it and pretend to love myself, or I clap back with an even harsher insult. Although these two ways of coping are very unhealthy, I genuinely do not know what else to do about it.

When those who criticize us see that their comments are starting to break us down, they often come up with, “In fairness, you’re pretty and smart naman.” or “Joke lang yun!” Do they not know how hurtful their words are? Their compliments may make us feel a little bit better at first, but that one harsh comment will always be at the back of our minds. It almost feels like those compliments do not even match the power that a few judgmental criticisms hold.


Little do the people closest to us know that those comments can build up way faster than compliments and may leave a scar that will fester on forever. I do have moments when I shrug it off with a laugh even though smiling is the last thing I’d want to do. When I look in the mirror, all I see is a made-up and sad invention of myself.


Words fail.


No worthy explanation?


After all that has been said and done, it is clear to see that finding a worthy explanation to justify all of this is difficult. To be completely honest, I had a hard time putting my thoughts into words for this article because I wanted to find the right words to use to encapsulate this topic that a lot are afraid to talk about.


I am not taking words of encouragement and affirmations for granted, but words can only go so far. When you make an insensitive comment, it can easily shatter one’s self-esteem and confidence, but it is not as easy to take them back using positive words. With that, it is important to create an environment wherein words are used to build up instead of pull down, not just for ourselves but also for the rest of the community. It is a choice that we have to make. This will take discipline, practice, and a ton of getting used to, but we have plenty of time to learn new habits and unlearn old ones.


As it says in Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Words may fail to bring back what once was, but they have the power to speak life and create something new.




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