Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sticks & Stones

We all remember hearing the old saying as kids, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."  If you're a parent, it is likely you've said this yourself, or some derivation of it.

And as a child, it is helpful to have perspective and this is one way we try to do so.

But as you know, they were wrong.  Names and words DO hurt. 

This morning on the radio I heard an old sentimental song that was popular in the early nineties.  And nearly twenty years later, I can still remember my then-girlfriend teasing me (and not so affectionately, I believe) because I liked the song. 

Insults hurt.  And the pain lasts longer, sometimes than a broken bone.

Now, I'm not crippled because someone I cared about gave me a hard time about liking a sappy song.  And that is, ideally, the distinction we are trying to make when we use that phrase.  But even that, we know, is not true.

I have received an interesting smattering of responses to my post the other day about whether or not dyke is derogatory.  And I feel badly that so many of you have had a negative experience with the use of the word.  To put it frankly, it sucks.

They say with kids and spouses and maybe dogs (although they tend to be more resilient) that they hear the negative things 10x louder than the good things.  That means we need to be really careful with what we say. Or we should be. 

There are certain things you should NEVER say to your spouse or significant other.  Things that may be particular to him or her and that person's insecurities, as well as broad "insults" that generally should not be said.  If you hit their insecurity button, then it does not matter how many times in any other settings you tell them the opposite, all they will EVER remember is the one time you affirmed their biggest fears.

My ex felt that she was ugly, old, and an idiot.  She felt worthless quite often, and I felt powerless to do anything about it.  The reality is that I could not fix her self-esteem, and it was not my place to do so.  I was fortunate, that for the most part, I could remember that.  But the one responsibility I *did* have was not to undermine it and make it worse.  Not to say something cruel in a moment of pettiness. 

That made things kind of delicate sometimes.  She'd give me the opening, "I know x is kind of y ..." and if I walked into the trap, then later, in a fight, it was guaranteed this statement would come back to haunt me and would come back amplified.  Suddenly a shirt that was unflattering means that she always looked ugly. 

{and a friend, who knows who she is, just interrupted me for some afternoon fun and completely derailed my train of thought!}

Typically, I write my posts in one sitting.  It doesn't mean I don't step back and think about them sometimes, but I do much better writing in one sitting.  This is the third time I've hit this post, and I can't help but think that I should quit while I"m ahead and go ahead and post it. 

The point is that words do hurt.  You should think twice before saying hurtful things to others, because the scars that may form from that may last longer than physical scars.  If you care for someone, you care how they feel.  So even in the heat of a moment, you still think about what you might say will do.  Because more than sticks and stones hurt us.


  1. Okay, I gotta know. What was the song?

    I have some from my childhood I still love. Like "silly love songs by Paul & his wings" & "Right before my Eyes, which I always called Rudolph Valentino by America". I crank those up when they come on a sing along.

    1. We've separately had this discussion by Twitter - it wasn't a "song" in the more recently thought of traditional sense of being broadcast, but more like a playground nursery rhyme our parents would tell us. Maybe Canadians didn't have to worry about sticks, stones, or names..? Or your parents had something more clever to try and dissuade you that names hurt?

  2. I meant in regards to this:

    "This morning on the radio I heard an old sentimental song that was popular in the early nineties. And nearly twenty years later, I can still remember my then-girlfriend teasing me (and not so affectionately, I believe) because I liked the song."

    What was THAT song? :)
    I know the sticks and stones thing, I think everyone does. It's not true either. Names can hurt much worse and last a lot longer.
    Now what was that song again? :)

    1. OH!! Doh! Tim McGraw's "Don't Take The Girl"... Let the teasing begin anew! ;)

    2. Oh damn that song makes me cry. Well, most of his stuff does. I never liked the ending of that one though. Kinda left you wondering.

    3. Um, I don't want to be the one to break it to you, she doesn't survive... :(

  3. As I posted on Twitter, Why is it so hard to believe a compliment someone gives us,and so easy to believe the hurtful things other can say? I admittedly have Self Esteem problems. I have severe depression and a tendency to self harm (generally more mentally than physically) I beat myself to a pulp all the time. I don't need anyone else to do it for me. How do I stop letting it effect me?

    1. You raise some important questions that I want to reflect on and perhaps respond in a new post. You are not alone. Big hugs!

      And I'm really sorry that you have received the treatment that you have over something I personally believe is so inconsequential. But I know it is hard sometimes to sift through people's comments and figure out what belongs to them and what belongs to you. Your most recent situation is crap that belongs to the people who are spewing it - not to you. Your post made good common sense, and reflects how I think a lot of people feel. I am sorry that it scares so many others, but unfortunately, when we tip-toe into religion, we sometimes trigger strong responses / reactions. But do know that this says more about how strongly they feel about what they believe, and not about you, per se.

      Good people can disagree. Good people often disagree. What reflects our character, however, is how we communicate our disagreement and how we react and respond to another's disagreement with our ideas.

      I can articulate with you (for example) the reasons why I think the viewpoint you have stated is not "correct" or at least doesn't reflect my viewpoint and my beliefs. I can do this in a mature manner without resorting to juvenile name-calling or throwing a tantrum.

      It is natural, when someone expresses a disagreement with what we think or believe or know, to react defensively. However, it is important to be able to step back from that reaction to objectively assess what they've said, rather than simply respond emotionally. And in the end, it is perfectly healthy and mature to end up with an "Agree to disagree" (and as I type that, I admit that a little smirk is on my face as I think of Julia Roberts in her recent Snow White rendition...).

      As I said, good people can and do disagree. When we can acknowledge that basic fundamental point, it allows us all to treat each other with respect, despite our disagreements.