The Power of Words 2: Adding Insult to Injury
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the impact of our words.
Preparation and materials
You will need two speakers, who will need time to rehearse prior to the assembly. You will also need a group of students to make up the chorus.
Optional: you may wish to use the link to the website for the television programme, The Weakest Link (www.bbc.co.uk/weakestlink/), to choose some recordings of classic cutting remarks by the host, Anne Robinson. The following is a list of a few of these.
- ‘One of you is not pulling your weight!’
- ‘It’s time to vote off the weakest link!’
- ‘It’s votes that count!’
- ‘Who is consistently letting you down?’
- ‘You are the weakest link - goodbye!’
Speakers 1 and 2 and the Chorus enter.
Speaker 1 (melodramatically): Prepare to be shocked! We are here to pry into your inner being, your darkest soul. To reveal your fears and frustrations.
Speaker 2 (very menacing): We are going to ask you totally embarrassing questions. We will make you beetroot-red with shame and disgust for all the times you’ve stabbed somebody in the back.
Speaker 1: And then we’ll torment you some more. We’ll make you think about all those times someone has embarrassed and degraded you!
Speaker 2: Stabbed you in the heart!
Speaker 1: Kicked you where it hurts most! (Then, a complete change in tone - lightly) But first . . .
Speaker 2: Let’s remind you of a programme that used to regularly grace our TV screens . . .
Speaker 1: A classic programme with a frightening host . . .
Speaker 1 turns to the Chorus and gives them a signal (perhaps like the conductor of an orchestra). With the same intonation pattern used on the programme . . .
Chorus (loudly in unison): Let’s play The Weakest Link!
Speaker 1 (lightly): Have you ever seen that programme on BBC - The Weakest Link?
Speaker 2 (lightly): I love that show.
Speaker 1 turns to the Chorus and gives them the same signal as before. With the same intonation pattern used on the programme . . .
Chorus: You are the weakest link - goodbye!
Speaker 1: Would you go on it as a contestant?
Speaker 2: No way! I wouldn’t give anyone the chance to insult me like that.
Speaker 1: Don’t you like being got at?
Speaker 2: Of course not. Who does? And it would be totally embarrassing to be the weakest link and get voted off.
Chorus: It’s time to vote off the weakest link!
Speaker 2: I think it’s really obnoxious to like washing the floor with people.
Chorus: You are the weakest link - goodbye!
Speaker 2: I feel sorry for the losers when they walk off, totally rejected.
Speaker 1: Anne Robinson is just pretending to be like that - it’s all done with a wink. Like a game. After all, it’s a game show. She hasn’t got any option. It wouldn’t be the same if she was nice. (Sweetly and serenely) ‘Sorry to see you go . . .’
Chorus (sweetly and serenely - not like Anne Robinson): You did your very best. Bye-bye.
Speaker 1: See? That sounds silly.
Speaker 2: Anyway, let’s get on with what we’re meant to be doing.
Speaker 1 (menacingly): Your deepest, darkest secrets . . .
Speaker 2 (directly to the audience): You see, we know what you’re really like. You want people to think you’re so good and clever and fair, but deep down, you’re all mean and horrible!
Speaker 1: Maybe just some of them are like that . . .
Speaker 2: It’s all of them! (To the audience) Just ask yourselves - what’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to somebody? I bet you’ve said some really ugly things to people who didn’t deserve your put-downs. One little slip and you’re down on them like a ton of bricks. And making them feel small made you feel so big, didn’t it? Come on, admit it!
Speaker 1 is surprised by Speaker 2’s vehemence and tries to calm the situation.
Speaker 1: All we’re saying is: it’s a good idea to think about what you’re saying before you say it. Think about how much you could hurt someone’s feelings. OK?
But Speaker 2 keeps up the tirade . . .
Speaker 2: Well, they’re just as bad, aren’t they? The ones who take insults to heart! (To the audience) Are you wimps, or what? Don’t you realize that if you take it to heart - well - it’s your own fault for being too sensitive.
Speaker 1 (concerned): You’re going too far now. Some people can’t help feeling upset if someone has a go at them.
Speaker 2: But they’re only words! ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words can never hurt me)’ and all that. If you’re going to worry about what somebody else thinks of you, what you’re saying is that their opinion is more important than your own opinion of yourself. Where is that going to get you in life?
Speaker 1: Well, that’s true.
Speaker 2 (more calmly): I’m just trying to make you see that maybe we should all have greater confidence in ourselves, rather than believing what other people say.
Speaker 1: But as well as that, maybe if we do find that we have insulted somebody, even if we didn’t mean to – we should at least have the guts to apologize.
Speaker 2: We need to think twice before we decide to viciously knife somebody in the back with our words. Once the damage is done, it’s no good saying, ‘Ooh, I was only joking.’ You have seriously hurt someone!
Time for reflection
Words can hurt people deeply. In the Bible, in the Book of James, there is a passage about the tongue being a very small part of the body, but a part that can cause a great deal of damage. Let’s make the decision to be careful how we use words.
Christians believe that insults were heaped on Jesus when he did not deserve them. They believe that when people were mocking Jesus before he was crucified, he didn’t run away from the truth. Instead, he stuck to what he believed, even though it caused him pain. He knew that it is what is inside someone that really counts.
In a few moments’ quiet, let’s remember our own hopes, fears and anxieties - our hopes of success and our fears of failure. Let us think about what is light and dark, or weak and strong, in our own lives.
May we realize that, whether we feel we are the weakest link or not, we are still loved by God. And that means we all have the potential to be the strongest link.