Sticks and Stones.

By July 21, 2017blog

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will NEVER HURT ME!”  Do you remember this expression?  It is what our new generation calls “Old School,” but we would use it to defend ourselves against harsh insults from friends or enemies. So why, after nearly 45 years, right this minute, is my head mulling over an incident that really messed with me as a kid.  I think what is happening is that as an adult, I see and hear things with a more mature ear and the memories of my own experience are put in context.

So, yesterday, when I stopped at the market, I heard a young boy call his friend, who had just fallen off a skateboard, an “idiot!”  The boy was crying and hurt and his friend just laughed and insulted him.  Then, at the same market, I heard a mother yell at her young child to “get some brains!”  Ouch!  The poor boy could not find a particular type of lettuce.  His eyes became red with falling tears.  These events lead me to my own bad memories of painful words.  When I played a game of checkers with a friend and made an incorrect move with my red disc without thinking carefully that it opened me up to a “jump”; she laughed out loudly uttering, “Stacey, you are so stupid you do not even understand how to play this simple game; Geeeezzz!” Then, she proceeds to dump the black and red pieces on the table with an evil laugh. She exits, slams the door; skipping home!  I sit. I listen. I heard. My stomach began to twist and turn, culminating in a lump in my throat; an insult had made me choke.  I started cleaning up my game wondering why I am so stupid; why can’t I play even a simple game without being made to feel “less than”; after all, it is a simple ten-year-old game.  What did I do to deserve this wrath?  She never touched me, but I would have rather had the “sticks and stones” than the memory of her negative words.

Did this hurt me? Yes, it did and to the core.  Am I too thinned skin or overly sensitive; was she over reacting to something that did not matter at the end of the day; was it just two kids being kids. Who knows.

As a little girl, this type of negative attention, coupled with a home life filled with issues a child should not have to confront, left me always questioning myself.  I began to think of this phrase instead as: “sticks and stones may bruise my bones, but words will ALWAYS HURT ME!”   For so long, I had allowed parents, friends, even strangers, to form my own sense of self.  This is not unusual, but most people have a core of self-worth from a solid parental foundation to know they are okay, no matter what the world has in store for them.  Now as an adult, with the help of loving friends and a more mature outlook, I am able to look inward and gain a sense of self. I am hopeful the next time I hear something like I heard that day in the market, I can send a silent message to the person hurting: “you are going to be ok”.

One thing I know that is not going to change, people will be mean, people will be cruel, knowingly and otherwise. That is why we all ask G/d for forgiveness from human frailties of vile tongues and wicked thoughts. We’re human, cruelty is part of our DNA. What we all need is the inculcation of knowing that what we are is what we think and know we are. I’m not stupid (even though I may still screw up the game checkers); we are all just what we should be: ourselves