Remember chanting…’sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. This was usually followed by sticking your tongue out at whoever caused you to sing the singsong chant. Remember those days? We were taught to do that against the bully that was making fun of our braces. Some adult told us that if we believed that words didn’t hurt then it wouldn’t matter if you were called you 4 eyes or fatty-fatty-2X4. And because adults told us that, we were supposed to believe it. When ‘sticks and stones’ didn’t work we tried another tactic…’I am rubber and you are glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to YOU.’

Another lie of adulthood, I guess. Santa, the tooth fairy, things are fair and everyone gets a trophy….the ever growing list of untruths that we believed as children that we, as adults, learn aren’t true.

Words do hurt. Words like: divorce, custody, foreclosure, overdrawn, death…those hurt. Bad. Other words hurt too: you lose, I want my daddy, broken home, failed and budget. There are words that hurt someone every day: fat, ugly, lonely, depressed, broke, sick, pain. Words do hurt. In fact, as children, we had it backwards. Sticks and stones may break our bones but those heal. Words hurt our hearts and break our spirit and those are not so easily fixed.

We need to talk…
I have to tell you something…
don’t get mad…
I didn’t make the team, she said no or it wasn’t first place.
It’s okay…(when clearly it’s not).
I am sorry but…
We hate to do this…
It can’t be fixed…

We’ve all had conversations that started with one of the above and I guarantee that the words that followed hurt. If they didn’t hurt -they stung. And they hurt every day for a long, long while. Despite what we were told as children the truth is that words can and do hurt.

There are words meant to soothe, meant to heal but there really is no salve for the damage words do. I am sorry, it’s me-not you, my mistake or it’s for the best; none of those makes things better or easier or hurt less. I am trying to teach my 11-year-old that her cutting wit doesn’t sting less when she adds I was joking after saying something that zings. Something like, “That doesn’t make you look as fat as you used to…just kidding.”

Words hurt. Whether they are meant to or not. Innocent words used in the wrong way at the wrong time are just as ugly and agonizing as hard, sharp words that were deliberately chosen to inflict pain. There are people who mean for their words to hurt. They don’t care. They don’t mind that insults and taunts become the only voices we hear in our own minds after a while. I don’t know why. I don’t understand how someone can look at another person and willingly chose to say something derogatory or hurtful. But it happens. Such things happen every day.

Then there are those that aren’t meant to hurt you but they do. When someone doesn’t say the right words—it can hurt. When someone doesn’t do what they said they would do—that hurts too. Empty words, empty promises and hollow answers leave marks. Words like I do, I will, I promise, trust me, don’t worry are Jekyll and Hyde words. Loving and kind and wanted when meant, ugly and mean and damaging when they become untrue.

I’ve hurt people with words-some
mistakenly and a few intentionally. I know the power if words. I’ve been hurt by words too-both mistakenly and intentionally. There have been times when I’ve said what i meant but it was heard differently then intended. I’ve eaten more then my share of words. I’ve also choked on a few. I haven’t always understood the power words yield. The older I get the more I understand. Sticks and stones may break my bones but it’s the words that really hurt me.



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