I have always known that the old rhyme about sticks and stones and words was not true. Remember saying that ditty as a child?
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
Usually, this was recited after being called a name, maybe on the playground or on the walk home from school. The purpose, of course, was to attempt to take the power out of the words that were spoken toward you. If we were honest, though, we would all admit that while we recited the words, deep inside of us, the words from the offender really did sting. No, bones were not broken; a heart was broken.
I was called quite a few names growing up. As an elementary school child, I didn’t fit in with any of the girls. I was a natural athlete. I tended to be drawn towards what the boys my age were doing. I remember when I was in fifth grade. Our school had an end of year picnic on the evening of the last day of school. It was a family affair–not just students. I loved the annual picnic and always looked forward to it. That year, though, I had missed the last four days of school with a virus. My mom, one of the pillars of the school in terms of food, still needed to go to the picnic. I stayed home on the couch under a blanket watching television with my dad. When mom came home later that night, she told me that one of the boys in my class asked if I was coming to the picnic. She explained that I was still pretty sick and couldn’t come. This friend of mine, a boy, said to my mom, “Shoot. She’s the only girl I know who can throw and catch a baseball.” While I was accepted by the boys, the girls were not in the same camp. I was called names that ranged from tomboy to words I won’t repeat here.
As an adult, I have realized that, while words do hurt, they really are just that–words; words that come from someone else’s opinion. Whether or not I believe them or allow them to shape my thinking is up to me. For the most part, I am consciously aware of this. Sometimes, though, sometimes there are words said to me which I am unable to mentally file under the category of harmless words. These occasions typically occur when the hurtful words come from someone who I love and is supposed to love me. When I was young, those hurtful words were almost always audible. Oh, occasionally one would find a note with hurtful words written by a classmate. That was the exception, though. Now, we have texting and social media to carry the hateful messages. I am definitely guilty of hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard. Sometimes there was no anonymity–it was clear the hurtful words came from me. These words, even though they could be traced back to me, were still easily spewed from fingers moving quickly over keys to be sent across the internet airwaves. I did not have to see the hurt in the eyes of the receiver. That made it so much easier to be mean.
Last week, I was once again reminded of how much words can and do really hurt. Eight words were typed to me that felt like a thousand daggers piercing my already fragile heart. I will not share the eight words that were sent to me in hate and anger. They are far too painful and personal. Suffice it to say that I need to retreat to tend to a very broken and pained heart before I say too much out of my own hatred and anger.