“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Many of us were taught this horrific lie at a young age.
Henry Gale wrote, “It’s one of those folk wisdom retorts or pieces of general wisdom that filters through the culture until any original author fades from recollection.”
It is far from wise. It’s asininity masquerading as wisdom.
I know this from personal experience. As do countless others who have been emotionally or psychologically wounded by the power of abusive, cruel words -whether they were intended to denigrate us, or in a grossly misguided way, to motivate us.
Irregardless of the speaker’s intent, cruel words cut to the core of our psyche and evoke a primal emotional response, usually one that is painful.
Putting us into fight it flight mode, OR, in the case of those of us who grew up in family dynamics where words were weapons (and who haven’t found healthy coping tools), sending us into an immiserating and paralyzing shame spiral.
Besides inflicting pain, words can also be used by predatory people to manipulate us for their purposes, harming and exploiting us in the process. People with untreated mental illnesses, severe emotional pain, and/or diminished capacity are the most vulnerable. Again, I write from experience.
And in intimate relationships with partners, family, and friends, it is easy to forget how much our words can hurt other people. We sometimes lash out without thinking, leaving our loved one feeling wounded. Once we’ve let our harsh words fly out of our mouths, there is no way to capture them and pull them back. The damage is done and our loved ones are left with an indelibly etched scar on their psyches, compliments of us.
So, “Be careful with your words. They’re the hardest things to take back.”
IMAGE CREDIT: MYKA MCKINNEY