Sticks & Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  Everyone remembers that, right? It was kind of an unofficial “nursery rhyme” meant to soothe us as children.  Something told to us by adults or maybe other kids to make us feel better about what some other person said about us.  However, I can’t help but wonder:  What genius came up with this load of foolishness? It’s the most awful lie–well, maybe not the most awful, but still a pretty darn bad illusion for a child (or anyone) to live by.  Now, I get it. It’s a way of deflecting someone else’s distasteful opinion, a barrier against their spit of venom but it doesn’t make it any less of a lie.

Words carry a heavy load. They are weighty, impactful, life-changing, painful, infectious, powerful–whether you ‘give’ them power or not. Words affect change, life, love, image. Words propel us forward or yank us back, sometimes simultaneously. Words cut deep, leaving scars that, often times, never heal. These intangible little objects inflict more pain that any broken bone, any sprained muscle–and I’ve had both–any cut or scrape an accident can leave behind. The wounds left by words, even just one, take years to even begin to heal. It takes intensive rehab to retrain the emotional muscles deteriorated by words. A single word can do more damage than a large stick or stone.

These are just a few of the hurtful words, I’m sure, most of us have heard, either about ourselves or someone else. We’re not even going to discuss the derogatory terms. You could sing the little ‘sticks and stones’ rhyme until your voice gave out and it wouldn’t make you feel any better if someone threw these words at you. My guess is, someone has said one or more of these words to you and even if you don’t believe them now, you did once. These things sink into our skin, our souls, our hearts, leaving trauma in its wake.

Why do you keep tormenting me with your words? Job 19:1

The body is a remarkable organism, an entity all its own. It functions as an instrument to many a task and when it’s invaded, it fights. It “talks” to us. It heals itself. All things within it work together, in harmony. Now, the heart, on its own, is the muscle that keeps everything in sync. It’s the baseline, the beat by which everything else vibes to. Without it, everything is lost…everything. The heart, as a conduit to our emotions, functions much the same way. It’s the main artery by which our feelings flow. When you’re excited, your heart beats fast. When you’re sad, your chest seems to hurt. When you’re melancholy, your blood seems to run a bit slower through your veins. Of course, all these things are controlled by the heart. Have you ever wondered why that is? The heart is the center of everything. If you sever the main artery, the heart dies, the body dies.

Words slice into us so deeply that no series of stitches can pull us together and force the wound to heal. No antiseptic can aid in the process. No band aid can keep it from getting infected. These things rest in us, follow us, haunt us. Should you hear them more than once, you just may fall victim to belief.

I’m going to get personal here and reveal some words that have scarred me both as a child and as an adult.

No good
Not good enough
I don’t want you here
I understand why he/she left you

These words are printed all over my soul, just beneath the layers visible to the world.  For all the words said that hurt me or left me feeling as if I wanted to hide instead of face the word, there are that many more unsaid that left a different kind of blemish. The type of marring that kept me from reaching for what I wanted. The lack of encouraging words which would indicate that I’d done a good job or words to make me believe I could do something…anything. Words that would make me “feel” attractive or liked or loved.

Here are some visible scars. No, they’re not pretty and neither is the damage they’ve done to the bodies of those who bear them. Imagine the harm we can’t see beneath the surface, the pain behind the smiles and laughter from something as simple as a few letters crammed together to form a thought.scar collageThink about your skin for a minute. Your skin, when cut, will eventually scab over and grow new skin on top. A word wound, is an open sore for no one to see, yet it’s something you constantly feel. It’s a salted, infected wound that will not heal on its own. It can’t. It needs other words as a band aid. Love as an antiseptic and Christ as the stitches. You may have scar when it’s all over, but the sting will be gone, the pain will subside and new words will cloak your malnourished soul like moisturizer, seeping into your pores and revitalizing you.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Ephesians 4:29 (MSG)

I love words (yes, even the ugly ones). Truthfully, I’m a bit of a junkie when it comes to them and I’ve become quite particular, persnickety even, about word choices. I believe people choose their words with a lot more care than they realize. Whether for good or bad or indifferent intent, there’s a reason they choose the words they use. That said, I pay acute attention to word choice and I urge you to do the same, particularly with your own. Take heart in the words you speak. Consider your own heart, how you’ve felt when you heard a particular word, be it truth or not. Think of how the words you say could affect the soul of those who hear them.


~The Word Junkie

The words of the wicked are murderous, but the words of the righteous rescue those who are threatened. Proverbs 12:6 (GNB)

I’ve revealed some words that have cut to the heart of me, that have made me feel “less than.” In the spirit of vulnerability, what are some words that have adversely affected you? If you care to share them, post them in the comments section.


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