"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I'm sure we've all heard this saying, but it seems we are living in a society that has long since forgotten this truism.

We are living in a hypersensitive world. A world where one is afraid of what he or she says because it could offend someone else. A society where jobs are lost, careers are ruined, and lawsuits are brought because one person or group is offended by the words of another person or group.

Simple words.

It has gotten to the point that there are even signs posted throughout campus stating that certain types of remarks will not be tolerated. Is this not a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution? Isn't free thought and expression as important as other personal rights? How did society get to the point that it is willing to take away the freedom of speech so that other people wouldn't get their feelings hurt? Society has gotten so worked up over words that they would rather outlaw them than simply ignore them.

Some would say that by ignoring this problem we are encouraging degrading speech. In fact, some would argue that by ignoring this problem we are even encouraging violence.

I beg to differ.

If someone calls me a name it is because that person feels that I display certain qualities that merit that name or label. If society punishes that person because he or she hurt my feelings and sensitivities, did it really change anything? No! That person will still think that I have those same qualities that earned me that title. If I don't like the title that person gave me, I should either ignore it, or I should change my behavior as to not display those qualities.

Society wants to think that it can stop hate by outlawing hate speech. This is not true. The only way to stop hate is by becoming educated about differences, and then accepting those differences, not by pretending that differences do not exist.

So the next time somebody says something you don't agree with, or that hurts your little, tender feelings, I challenge you to either change your behavior, or ignore the imbecile that offended you. Because after all, sticks and stones can break bones, words cannot.

Shawn Van Tassell is a senior at Utah's Weber State University where he studies Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations.  He is a guest columnist for The Signpost, the campus newspaper where this column originally appeared.  Students at Weber State University watch the Fox News Channel on their campus cable system.

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