Words Can Really Hurt or Heal

Words Can Really Hurt or Heal – Choose Them Wisely

The famous Russian pianist and composer, Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff, started playing the piano at age 4. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892 at the age of 19 and had already composed several piano and orchestral pieces.

Following Rachmaninoff’s completion and performance of his Symphony No.1 in 1897, the symphony was “savaged” by the music critic and composer, Cesar Cui, who likened Rachmaninoff’s work “to a depiction of the ten plagues of Egypt.” Cui suggested that Rachmaninoff’s work would only be admired by the “inmates” of a music conservatory in Hell.

Who wouldn’t be hurt by such harsh words of criticism? Rachmaninoff certainly was, and he fell into a severe state of depression, for 3 years, during which he composed very little. He had lost his “mojo.”

This historical example should help us to better realize just how damaging our words can be to others. It’s probable that Cesar Cui never intended to bring about such a negative psychological reaction in Rachmaninoff. He probably thought that such criticism was for Rachmaninoff’s own good. That’s how many of us sometimes justify the unkind way in which we speak to or write about others.

Words really can hurt others – just as much as they can heal when wisely chosen.

Ultimately, with the supportive words of others, Rachmaninoff emerged from his depression, and in 1901, he completed and performed his Piano Concerto No.2 which was enthusiastically received. Then followed his illustrious career as a composer who performed all over the world.