Sticks and stones may break my!”
bones but words will
never hurt me
bones but words will
never hurt me
These are the words I remember shouting out at kids in the playground who called me names. I was taught this rhyme, and at the time I think was probably convinced that it was true, but only because I didn’t understand that harm other than physical harm existed. I thought that “words would never hurt me” because, well how could a word trip me over and leave me bleeding on the pavement?
Now I know better. Now I know that words often hurt. Too often words are spoken (or written) without thought for the possibility of hurt being caused.
In the last few days I’ve been reminded of this over, and over again. For myself, I have been called names that I’ve never been called before, sparked by my expressing an unpopular opinion. I’ve been labelled with labels I’d rather not have, and you probably wouldn’t want them either. I’ve had strips torn off me repeatedly, by many different people, all by words reacting to a comment I made.
For a while I was able to take a ‘healthy approach’, which I admit surprised me because in the past such things would have destroyed me for at least a day. This time I was actually able to separate myself from what was being said, and I could believe that just because these people (who didn’t know me) were saying these things about me, that didn’t make it true. That was the difference. Just because they said it, didn’t make it true.
By the second day of this, the words were starting to hit. I could still say that their words didn’t make it true, but it was starting to hurt to be thought of that way. The people expressing these words clearly thought I was the lowest of the low. The labels they attached to my name weren’t comfortable. I knew I wasn’t the person they assumed but somehow just their assumptions hurt. They might not be true but they were digging deep into my insecurities of myself.
I took the best course of action considering the circumstances. I walked away. Permanently. For someone with a history of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) that is actually quite hard to do, and I congratulate myself on that. You see, not only do we get angry and want to fight back, but also we struggle with our sense of self and have to fight in order to preserve what little there is. Being told I was all these things was difficult to manage. I’m learning though that walking away from a fight can actually be the healthiest thing to do, and I’m glad I chose to do that before getting myself more hurt.
What strikes me though is that the words that were slung at me, were never considered in terms of what damage they might do. They were perhaps just thrown without a thought of how they might be received.
I have seen that in more than just my own personal experience in recent days. I have seen other people have very harmful words thrown at them recently, much worse than what I encountered. My own experience simply served to highlight to me what damage could be done.
Words are just thrown like mud. The only thing is that while mud sticks, it will also wash off. Words are more like a dirty, serrated knife that cuts deep into the victim. Then more words are thrown and the knife is twisted. The damage is immense and long-lasting. Yes, stick and stones may break my bones but words have the power to destroy me (or you).
“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”
― Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls
It’s a good reminder for me of the power of our words. Words can be good, they can be encouraging and healing, but it seems that more often words are flung without a thought of how they will land, or what damage they will do.
I am well aware that it was a few words from me that caused the flurry of attack on me this week. Words, which I knew what they meant, but apparently caused an emotional trigger reaction in the recipient. And then it grew from there, as a very fast growing and large mushroom.
There was little way that I could have predicted what reaction my words would have, nor do I believe that I can take responsibility for another’s reaction. But perhaps I didn’t stop long enough to consider the possibilities for hurt. Actually in hindsight, I’m sure I probably didn’t although it was a quick comment that I didn’t think about much. And I guess that’s so often where the problem lies. We speak before we think. I can’t take responsibility for how another reacts to my words, but I do believe I have a responsibility to do all I can to ensure my words hopefully avoid hurting another.
What I experienced personally this week was not pleasant, nor was what I saw hurled at others in different circumstances. But it has made me think about my words and how I use them. And as a writer that seems an important lesson. It’s not just how I understand what I am saying, but there are a myriad of possibilities of how my words will be interpreted. I can’t mind read. I can’t tell exactly how a person will react, nor am I responsible for their reaction. But I’m sure I can do my best to show compassion in the words I speak, or write.
Maybe the approach to take is that of kindness. Are my words kind? I can still express a different opinion to the masses, but have I done all I can to try to avoid causing unnecessary hurt? That’s what I’m going to try to work on. I can’t guarantee the outcome because there is always a recipient of the words who will determine that outcome, as well as onlookers who take the chance to throw in their five cents worth, but I can do my little bit to make this world a better place.
“I always surprise myself on my ability to turn a phrase. Words are, in my not so humble opinion, the most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
― J.K. Rowling
- Bad Press In Black & White (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Cate: 1 BPD: 0 (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Sticks & Stones … (simplymejustbe.wordpress.com)
- Words (whatthemuffin.blogspot.com)
- Words Hurt 3 (mickeysayhello.wordpress.com)