One of the comments I received in response to a post was from my cousin Tennille. In her comment she very rightly stated: “It’s funny how we are taught that nursery rhyme “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me.” It couldn’t be further from the truth. Words do harm and they do effect.”
I think that she is absolutely right; we have been lied to as children. Words can be terribly destructive, and often words are used as weapons against people. The most glaring way we see it in our society is in the racist comments that still abounb in our culture. Twenty years into democracy and many God fearing citizens still feel little shame to drop racist comments without even being aware of what they have just said. It is the calculated attack mechanism that so many people who carry hurts, have developed as a coping tool. It is the verbal bullying tactic used to beat someone down and the projections of poor self-image that are spoken into the lives of others; very often spoken into the lives of those closest to us.
Sticks and stones may break my bones. Sticks and stones leave scars, we carry these as reminders of the battle and they are there for people to see. We get sympathy from others who see these scars as know that they are as a result of physical pain. The scars are reminders to us that we were once hurt and our bodies healed but a piece of evidence of the trauma is always there to act as a reminder. In a way it helps us cope with the event that caused the scar. However words leave no visible marks, they sneak in without any physical signs, get stored in our heads and our hearts. These words reside in our subconscious and eat away at us like an unseen disease.
Words will never harm me? Why do we teach our kids to ignore the playground bully who calls them names? Why do spoken words get discounted? You will often overhear a little child crying about someone calling him a name and the adult response is very often something along the lines of: “That is not a nice thing so and so said, just ignore him he is talking nonsense.” Yet if the same little kid punches our child in the nose we storm off to the teacher’s office to make sure the perpetrator is dragged across the coals. I can assure you from experience that a bloody nose heals much quicker than a wounded heart. I speak from experience, I was at an all-boys school and in my first year of hostel I faced my share of bullies. I got into one or two minor first fights but for the life of me I cannot recall what they were about. Yet some of the things that were said still carry the same hurt when I think back to them.
Over and over again we bear witness to this story repeating itself through the generations. The bullies justify themselves. It is only words; no harm can come of it. Wrong! If a young child comes up to you and says that they are being abused at home the first thing one would generally think of is that they either getting sexually abused or physically abused. If the child says that they get called names and get spoken to in an ugly way people tend to discount the severity of the abuse. Whilst no abuse to any person regardless of their age is justified, verbal abuse is as destructive as all the others.
Verbal abuse can hide very easily and it can take place without one even being aware of it. The conversation between friends overheard by a child can carry huge repercussions and guilt for the child even when the adults were not directing the statement at the kid. A comment about how a member of staff is an idiot for making a simple mistake can erode years of confidence. A scathing snide remark or an insult can cut worse than a blade. Some people are very skilled at these attacks. They are the snipers of the elite unit; the narcissist boss, the jealous friend, the vindictive teacher. These people are all around us and none of us are immune to their tactics. Our weaknesses are exposed as we have all been taught that words can do no harm and because these bullies have been hurt so badly themselves by those exact same words they know how to use the against us .
Guard you hearts, be careful who you spend time with, focus on the good and remember that words can be extremely powerful and they have the ability to destroy.
Just as words can destroy, the right words have the ability to heal; to build up; to create a sense of love and understanding; compassion and joy.
Be gentle to yourself, speak kindly to yourself, use words and thoughts that will protect you from the bully within. We cannot shut out words from those around us, but we can control our internal words.
Here is an interesting TED video that deals with our own emotional voices http://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene?language=en