“Sticks and stones may break your bones,
But words will never hurt you.”
I still remember very clearly the first time I heard those words. I had come running in from the bus stop where the bigger kids had been teasing me and calling me names. With tears streaming down my face, my dad had stooped down, pulled me into his arms, and shared that little poem with me.
But he was wrong.
Those words did hurt.
“Sticks and stones” is a mantra handed down from generation to generation, helping children deal with the sting of the big, cruel world and the nasty people they’ll inevitably encounter in it. Our hearts are in the right place in trying to help kids rationalize their hurt feelings, but the logic isn’t.
Words do hurt.
In fact, according to some research; emotional pain is processed in the same part of the brain as physical pain. And that emotional pain can result in something much worse than a broken bone.
You see, broken bones mend themselves, sometimes growing stronger than they were before the break, but harmful words can result in lifelong injury. They break our hearts, scratch our spirits, and dent our self-esteem, all of which is damage that may never fully heal.
Clearly, words matter.
And what matters most is how we use them. Do we use them like sticks and stones, to tear down, to destruct, and destroy? Or, do we use them to build up, encourage, and affirm?
Remember, what you say could make all the difference.