From the time we were kids we were taught the saying:
“Sticks and stones may break bones but words will never hurt me”
I don’t know who came up with that saying, maybe someone with good intentions who was trying to help, but it’s a lie nonetheless.
Words hurt. They can cut DEEP and leave scars that don’t always heal with time.
How else can you explain someone who is 40 years old and still hurt about being teased or shunned in high school? How else do you explain a person living a limited, unhappy life just because someone told them they wouldn’t amount to anything?
A number of recent events in my own life have shown me the true power of words, how they can really hurt and how they can sit on a person’s soul for years and years — sometimes even a lifetime.
When someone tells a child that “sticks and stones” line they’re assuming that the child is strong enough to resist the ugliness of those words. Not all children are — some children are fragile and don’t have high self-esteem. They need more training and more encouragement at home to be able to prevent internalizing those hurtful words for years into the future.
A Better Saying…
I think the better saying would be that words may hurt you, but you shouldn’t let them DEFINE you.
You can’t deny that when someone says something hurtful to you, it stings. But the strength is in taking that insult in the proper context and then REJECTING it completely.
This is the proper context: people who try to hurt you with their words are reflecting their own hurt out into the world. The way they choose to deal with their own pain is to try to make someone else feel worse. They get a fleeting satisfaction from that (keyword: fleeting).
It’s up to each one of us to recognize this so that we can better let those ugly utterances bounce right off of us like jello, knowing that it has no basis in reality. Its real basis is in anger, emotional pain and confusion.
So let’s repeat this new affirmation to ourselves and to the young people in our lives: words might hurt you, but you can’t let them DEFINE you.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lynn Gilliard is a writer, transformational blogger and author of a popular relationship guide entitled Let Him Chase YOU.