Food For Thought Friday: Sticks and Stones

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I remember singing this little rhyme to myself growing up. Trying to remind myself that words were not weapons.  As an adult, I have to tell you, I think this is a load of crap.

We always skip a page in one of the Human Cannonball's favorite books, "Fox In Sox." Page forty something.  Fox says to Mr. Knox, "...you don't have to be so dumb, now." Last night, as I read him the book, partly because he can sound out words these days, and partly because he has a memory like you wouldn't believe (especially for rhyme) and inevitably has picked it up when his dad or I have accidentally dropped it, he pointed to the word and said, "Mom, that says 'dumb', why don't you read that page?"  I told him that the word "dumb" isn't a kind word, and I don't want him using it.

I didn't tell him that I remember just about every person in this world who called me "dumb" or some variation.  So many people, hurling the insult effortlessly like a ninja, my brother, my father, a teacher, kids in the schoolyard, a neighbor that I looked up to, and more recently anonymous emailers who are not creative enough to come up with a legitimate particle of constructive criticism, all confirming a fear that I held about myself.  I am dumb.  Words DO hurt.

Now, do I actually think I am dumb? No.  I know I am not dumb.  I'll spare you the list of my successes, but I will tell you, a "dumb" person would never have accomplished all of this. But the words left their mark. What if people think I'm dumb? I hate feeling misunderstood.

As an adult, I understand that what we are trying to teach our children when we say "words will never hurt me," is that what other people think of you is no match for what you KNOW about yourself.  Words, even ones that are meant to hurt, cannot break your strong spirit.  We tell them this, and simultaneously try to instill the value of not using their words to hurt others.  There are adults who cannot reconcile this, how do we expect our children to?  Words DO hurt.

There are bullies everywhere, at the grocery store, at your work, in your churches, hiding behind their computer screens, reading this very blog (and likely getting ready to comment under the ever-popular moniker "anonymous"). Here is what I know about these bullies, they use words that hurt because they don't feel very good about themselves.  Their hurtful words say nothing about you, they say EVERYTHING about them.  This is a lesson I'd like my kids to learn sooner rather than later, but frankly, I'd rather people were just nice to each other so that I didn't have to teach them the lesson at all.  Words DO hurt, and sometime it can take a lifetime to undo their damage.

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  1. What on earth are people calling you names for? I don't get it. I don't recall reading anything so incendiary on here; but then, even if I had, I would not say that is the cause of people being mean and calling you names. People do not call you names because you asked for it by your blog postings; people call you names because they choose to be mean and employ ad hominem logical fallacies.

    All that said--yes, words haunt for years. Decades. Lifetimes. But as one blogger's husband pointed out, "If they are going out of their way to insult you, you must being doing something right!"

    Keep up the good fight, lady.

  2. According to my older brother my name was Dummy.

    How do you really "get" that it is about them and not me? That is what I would like to know.

  3. Colleen! I listed you on my blogs to follow blog hop!

  4. Here's a post from anonymous. I think your blog is fabulous and I think you have such a gift for capturing universal feelings and putting them into very relatable and readable words. I'm a mom of three and I can't tell you how many times I've read your posts and felt a connection to the other moms out there -- you really get it! And you know how to communicate it well (humorously and heartfelt without being preachy). Somebody "up there" clearly had a very specific plan for you and your gifts. So happy that you are out there doing what you're doing.


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