I’m not sure about you, but for a chunk of my childhood this phrase would regularly ring out across the playground as a catch all response to the latest action that caused upset.
Sticks and stone may break my bones,PRACTICALLY every kid at some point growing up.
But words will never hurt me!
For a couple of reasons I have found myself pondering this phrase a lot today. I’m not sure why, but it has taken me to the grand old age of 43 to figure out that phrase is complete and utter RUBBISH…
Words carry so much weight – far more than the heft of a stick or a stone.
Words can sit in your memories indefinitely – long after bruises or breaks heal.
Words can strike out and hurt anyone who hears them – with social media that speed and size of the reach of those words is now huge.
Words can change peoples lives, for better or worse.
Words can make a room full of people erupt in laughter – causing often unseen, unnoticed pain to those in the room who those words were aimed at.
Words can be weapons, far more than sick and stones.
More damaging, more available, more acceptable…
It would be easy for me to ponder here, with my random words, about incidents and examples that caused me to spend so much time thinking about this today. But reading those lines above – whilst in my mind thinking of a specific situations – I realised that they all applied to me.
The words I have chosen to use, in my own judgement, I don’t think carried the weight of the ones I heard uttered that caused me to pause and ponder this.
But my own words have caused pain.
My own words have made people laugh at the expense of others.
My own words, some in the heat of the moment, some carefully planned, some being forgotten by my brain no sooner than they have passed my lips.
My own words are stuck in the memories of others – as a long dark shadow cast by “just” my words.
So I find myself pondering… Except pondering isn’t really the correct word here. Pondering implies a lightness, a gentleness, a thoughtful, detached, constructive time spent working through my thoughts.
Grief, sadness, despair, shame. Those words more accurately describe my thoughts.
For the words I have used.
For the justifications I made used to myself for their use.
For making them acceptable, both to my memories and in the ears of others.
My words have been weapons, far stronger than stick or stones.
My words have quite possibly hurt you, casting long shadows in your memories.
But what use are my words on this page. Hardly anyone will read them.
Certainly not everyone for whom my words cast shadow in their memories.
My words here wont fix anything – in fact they may make some things worse.
My actions, I hope, will.
I’m not perfect, my words will still be weapons. Knowingly, unintentionally and at times quickly forgotten by myself.
But my hope from this time of pondering, of grieving, of despairing, of shame.. My hope is that the shadow that this time casts across my memories will serve as a reminder to choose my words carefully.
But more than that, to choose my actions carefully as well.
My actions may not result broken bones but they, like my words, can cause far greater damage.
But actually sometimes it’s the inaction that can cause even greater damage.
It’s acceptable to sit passively to one side as words are used as weapons. If sticks and stones were being used then I don’t think any of us would sit passively and watch our friends and family being hurt.
So why do I choose to sit passively whilst words are used as weapons?
It’s just a joke, it’s just banter.
It’s just words.
My inaction gives the impression of support, approval or indifference.
The same hands that would move to defend a friend from a physical attack remain by my side.
It’s just words.
Sticks and stones my break my bones,
But words will always hurt.The Dark SHADOW in my memories