Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I’m rubber, you’re glue; whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.

I know you are, but what am I?

It takes one to know one.

I remember saying each of those phrases to mean kids and bullies in elementary school. It was my way of trying to brush off their mean comments or retaliate for their criticism.

Last night I was lying in bed thinking about all these sayings. I was wondering how long it would be until my daughter would be standing up to her own bullies and repeating them.

Sticks and stones were most likely the first weapons as our species evolved over time. The thing is, sticks and stones can break my bones, but those bones can heal.

Words are different. Words have power. They can record history and prove testiment over the ages. They have shaped societies. They can make peace and cause wars. They can give hope and lift you up. The truth can enlighten.

But words can also hurt. A sharp tongue can slice like a knife. One can spit out words that are akin to bullets striking the soul.

They can hurt the moment they hit or stay with you like shrapnel under the skin, a wound that may not be seen but that can fester under the surface for years, whether truth or lies.

You’re too fat for any of the boys to like you.

You have a way about you… you look exotic. I wouldn’t say you’re beautiful. You’re not beautiful.

I will always be your Daddy. I love you.

No one will believe you if you tell.

Worse than that, somehow the words that aren’t said are what seem to cut to the quick and remain painful so many years later: the words that we needed to hear, wanted to hear, couldn’t bear to not hear.

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I’m sorry.

I love you.

Please stay.

I was wrong.

Unlike sticks, stones, or other weapons that are usually used with the intent to cause damage, words may be used jokingly, offhandedly, misinterpreted, or calculated to cause suffering.

Some use words sparingly, others nonstop. And unlike with physical weapons, we may never know of, see, or understand the hurt our own words cause others.

Long after utterances, curses, whispers, or proclamations have been lost into the wind or forgotten by those who have spoken, words have a magical way of worming their way into our memory, writing themselves on our hearts, and being relived for years in our dreams.

Be careful with your words.


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