Sticks and stones? Nah! Words hurt. Do you remember the last time someone hit you with a stick? Probably not. It’s barely a memory and the injury has long since healed itself. But that’s just it. Our body heals. Our mind…not so much.
There’s two kinds of doctors: medical doctors (M.D.) and doctors of philosophy (Ph.D). We tend not to think too much of the latter because we put a greater importance on our physical health than on our mental health.
When we get sick, we make an appointment to see a physician. It isn’t until we can not pinpoint the physical ailment that we consider an alternative remedy. Some of us will turn to holistic remedies before we decide to sit in a psychologist’s chair. Others may seek counsel from clergy or the comfort of a prayer group.
Personally, I believe a spiritual sense will bring about more healing than any of the above; but that’s because when we pray, we release. The stress on our flesh and our souls is often too much to bare. A simple but thorough release of all worries and stressors will be met with miraculous results.
But what of the sticks and stones? “He who is without sin, should cast the first stone…” And yet we are encircled by stone throwers daily. When we find ourselves in the center of that circle receiving all those blows, it’s hard to drop to our knees and await a hedge of protection. Heck no! We fire those stones right back; and with impeccable aim.
Metaphors aside for a moment, real stones damage the flesh. Healing is required. That healing comes from physicians and the medical establishment. Unlike with bullets or blunt objects, no tourniquet or bandages are required. Sticks sometimes pierce, but they are not spears. A wack with a stick bruises! Again, no ambulance or emergency medical services will be called.
“Sticks and stones may break our bones, but [words] will never hurt me!”
Why do we teach this to our children? It’s an age-old tradition that we all recall from our childhood. The bully teases. The child responds. Sometimes with this unwitty chant; other times with a cry for help, we just want it to stop.
In second grade, I grew tired of the teasing. I can’t recall what caused the harassment. It could have been because I looked different. It may have been because of where I lived. Either way, no one deserves that type of treatment. My parents behaved like it was a part of growing up. To this day, I can’t quite determine whether my folks were entertained by my growing pains or whether they wanted me to become stronger and wiser. Instead, what I learned was far less pleasant.
I came home from school whining that the kids at school were mean to me. My mother offered a solution. She didn’t ask what caused it, or what remedies I’d already attempted to stop the bullying. To her, it was irrelevant. She didn’t ask who or where. It just needed to stop.
Mom said, “I want you to get the biggest stick you can find and find the biggest kid you can spot on the playground.”
“Now you take that stick and beat his ass with it! And you be sure to do it in front of ALL the other kids!”
“You beat his ASS!”
It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, especially since it wasn’t THAT kid who was bullying me. But I would do what I was told. After all, momma knows best, right?
I found that big stick. I found that big kid. I made sure I had an audience, and I swung that stick at that kid!
I’d like to tell you that I became an instant hero amidst all my watching peers. I’d like to reveille in the 15 minutes of fame…that I liberated all the school-ground-kids from the throws of tyrany. I’d like to, but I can’t. Nope.
It didn’t happen that way at ALL! When I spotted that kid, I walked right up to him. Swinging and muttering, I was just a sight. Whew! I was going to do THIS! He saw me coming. He was surprised, but not worried. When I got within three feet of him, I swung aiming for his shoulder. He stopped me mid swing. He caught that big stick. He grasped it from my sweaty hands. He took that stick and beat MY ASS with it!
I came home bruised. Both my body and my ego hurt. No one got in trouble. No ambulance was called and no physician was sought. I was still stunned. I was almost afraid to approach my mother. But I needed comfort.
Here’s what she said:
“What happened to you?!?”
“I did what you said. I got the stick, and I found the biggest kid…”
“Hmmm…I should have taught you how to fight first, huh?”
Warm tears rolled down my face. My eyes burned, and I was no longer reviling in the pain from the blunt force trauma. My trauma was internal. I hurt. I was confused. I was angry.
Those words hurt. The smiling lips they leapt from exacerbated my torn ego. Comfort in my mother’s arms I did not find. Nor was there any respite on the playground the following day.
My hurt was emotional. My physical pain had already subsided. My pride was restored when I learned to coexist with my peers, but avoid my tormentors.
Plenty of lessons are learned in our formative years. Each of us could tell a story. The biggest hurt in our lives didn’t come from a bullies swing though. The biggest hurt came from betrayal–the words spewed from someone we thought had honored us.
Even the malicious acts that occur contrary to our personal and emotional safety hurt. Why? Because we thought we were safe. We’d convinced ourselves that we would not be in harms way.
It’s when our belief system is rocked–that’s when we hurt. And that’s the kind of hurt for which a medical doctor can not prescribe a cure. Even a physchiatrist can not truly heal that trauma. Monsignor Vitty BoomBox can’t pray me back to righteousness.
Words hurt. Even the good ones; like LOVE. Words that represent the greatest joy can bring forth the biggest pain. It’s these types of words that dwell so deep in our heart, not even our brain can make sense of it. Words that connect the brain, heart, and soul–these are the most dangerous of all.
Words can drop us to our knees. Words evoke understanding (or misunderstanding). They cause pain. Every now and then they heal. But ignoring the words is no easier than avoiding the pain.
Sadly, I can find enough words through writing or speaking, through joy or anger, to undo the pain or that will birth pleasure. At some point those words, stringed together in the right order will manifest a plan of action. It is the actions that may create change.
But regardless of how we act, it’s the words the cause fear or reduce anxiety. A pill can ease the pain, but the pain is mental. It’s emotional. It’s spiritual. And it will return.
Do you remember the pain? Use your words, but choose them carefully.