Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Heirlooms

All of my life, I have been taught the well known idiom; "Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you." This is something I was taught, not only by my grandparents, but by generations of people before them. It has been handled delicately, wrapped tightly to preserve it, and passed from generation to generation. When a child's feelings have been hurt, they recieve a reassuring pat on the shoulder and the words whispered into their ear, "Sticks and stones will break your bones and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah."

Of course, everyone knows what this implies; It is a message meant to convey that words have no meaning if there is not an action or reaction that solidifies the words. That words are just completely void of substance, and one shouldn't fret over things as simple and menial as words.

As I've grown older my perspective on the world has changed. While I understand the well-thought meaning behind this old adage, I am beginning to wonder how much weight of truth it actually carries.

Frankly, I think it's all bullshit.

Of course words can hurt! I've been there. I've experienced it. I've used words to intentionally hurt the feelings of others, and guess what? It worked.The first time I cried at school was because Buddy Lewis (in all of his infinite wisdom of six) chanted a school-yard taunt about my backside. I was six, and I cried because a boy with glasses and a rat tail told me I had a big butt. When I got to the house later that afternoon, I told my granny what had happened and she said, "Well, who does he think he is?!" Granny then began to recite the "Sticks and Stones" rhyme.

It was supposed to be this small thing. Just words that didn't matter.

These words that never hurt people... They were the very same words that would later cause me to limit my food intake to a cup of grapes a day, to binge & purge and cause me to see only my flaws when I looked into the mirror.

Now, whether this phrase took root because parents really believed it to be true or, because they did not know what else to say is of no importance.

I am learning daily of the profound effect that words can have on those around us. I like to think that my words have a positive effect, but I'm learning...still learning...that words can cut deeper than any knife,  burn hotter than any flame and make you look like a total ass-clown.

Our society undermines the importance of the words we speak, and the message we send through our spoken thoughts.

I find it quite humorous that the older I get; the closer I come to the day when I will pat my children on the shoulder, and give them sage advice about life...I realize, words are some of the most important things in our lives. I am also learning that nine times out of ten, people heal more quickly from a physical blow than a mental or emotional one.

As with so many family heirlooms we recieve, I really treasure this ancient turn of phrase. Had it not been for the careful packaging and passing, I would not be able to make a better future for my children.

I think when the time comes, I will let my children know that words can hurt you, but they can also hurt others. I will make sure they know, words come without an exchange or refund policy...so they must handle them with care. I will also make sure they are aware of the positive effects words can have on a person. I have discovered that nothing lifts one's spirit higher than hearing someone tell you how truly amazing you are, how much faith they have in your abilities and that you are an integral part of their life.

I guess today's moment of clarity is this:

Words are far more powerful than anyone gives them credit for.

Words are weapons, or gifts...depending on how they are used.

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