“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yes indeed, that is often one of the first little mantras one learns in life and generally chants on a playground in response to other children being mean. From the time we are small, our parents tell us what other folks say about and to us really doesn’t matter and it is really all about who we believe we are. As we grow older and get into the dating and professional games, elders and friends tell us not to listen to what folks say, but to instead focus on what they do. “Talk is cheap.” So, we go out into the world with this very definite idea about words being irrelevant, but is talk really as low budget as we like to imply it is? Are we really the “rubber” we learn about as children that makes us impervious to cruel words or are we at times forever affected by the glue of what we hear?
I’ve always been a thinker. I am constantly mulling over what happened during the course of my day and sometimes, the course of my life. I often think about who I spoke to, what we discussed, what I read, what I would have said to the person who got on my nerves during the course of the day had I been given the opportunity, what I should write on this blog, etc… I still remember words people said to me in childhood, good and bad. Both play in my head and can alter my mood in that moment and every now and then, the way I feel about who I am. Because of this, I have a really hard time imagining myself as that rubber repelling the glue of other folks’ ugly words. I’m just not buying into it.
I think at one point or another, everyone has been injured by words. Unlike a bruise or blackened eye that will heal and disappear over time, words stick. I hear them in the moment they are said and hear them resound loudly over time. I have been called stupid, ugly, fat, stuck up, and a know-it-all, among other things. Despite knowing those adjectives don’t truly define me, how realistic is it for folks to think I can forget those words and pretend they are meaningless?
Granted, I do not condone wallowing in words and allowing them to cripple me. However, to accomplish that, I have to make a conscious effort to see past insults and look inward for the ways in which I believe myself to be awesome. That isn’t always easy when outside forces are focused on the negative, but it is imperative for my self-preservation. Once a hurtful person utters cruel words, it takes a while for me to process it, refuse to lend any validity to it, and move on from it. Regardless of the length of time, I have to take every step to assure I end up in a good place unaffected, or at least minimally affected, by other folks’ foolery.
The main way to remedy the long term hurts words can cause is to be mindful of what one says. I make it a point to think about what I say before I say it. I don’t want to be one of the voices someone carries around in his/her head becuse I said something mean I can’t take back and the other person can’t forget. I don’t want to cause the kind of pain that resonates for years.
So, yeah, sticks and stones break bones, but doctors re-break and set them. Words are something else entirely. They echo and they stay. A cast, sling, or a few band aids won’t fix what words can do so building an emotional armour that reinforces everything good about oneself is paramount in this life fight. In the meantime, I continue to make sure I don’t spew glue all over anyone else’s self-image. Words can hurt worse than any stick or stone.
If you would like to learn more about the weight of words, like the Words Hurt Campaign page on Facebook.