Friday, May 18, 2012

Sticks and Stones

When I was a little girl and someone would call me a name, my grandma would have me recite "sticks and stones may break my bones but words would never hurt me." While I understand as an adult the lesson that she was trying to teach me, I do not think that I would pass along this same message to the next generation for this one reason....its simply not true.  Words do hurt us. They can even hurt us deeply.  How many of you can still remember that one comment from a parent, a lover, or a friend that happened years ago but still has the emotional attachment with each memory as if it were occurring for the first time?

I woke up this morning and for some reason my mind was on playback. I do not know what triggered this particular memory but it was a comment that a close friend made about me to someone else that I stumbled upon accidentally many years ago.  Because the message was not addressed to me, I never addressed it. But I struggle today with that decision because the memory of one simple statement was just as painful for me this morning as it was when I first read it. At first I prayed again for the strength to forgive again and I've spent years convincing myself that perhaps this was just spoken in anger, or maybe the person did not mean it. But none of that really matters in the end. It was was devastatingly hurtful then and it still is today and there's nothing either of us could ever do to take it back.  I decided to write about it today perhaps as a means of my own catharsis because I need to figure out exactly why this one comment is still so fresh. And all I can think about is, it is not the words themselves that were hurtful.  Growing up as an obese child, this was not the first time that I have had hurtful statements tossed in my direction, especially about other's opinions of my appearance.  So why this time?

I think the reality of this situation was not that I expect all persons to love me or even to accept me exactly as I am because i know that many will, but some will not. But there are some people in our lives that we absolutely do not expect to do or say certain things. Maybe because of other promises that were made..maybe because of the nature of your relationship...maybe even just because you expected them to know better.  At the end of the day, its not about the words themselves but the relationship is what gives those words such stinging power. Truth of the matter is, in one statement I realized that someone who I thought could see my value actually did not see it at all. I felt violated. Betrayed. Confused. And definitely angry. But above all of that, I felt like a fool and very vulnerable. I still do.

So maybe it is not just the words themselves that are hurtful and if I actually told you the comment for some it may not even seem like a big deal. But you cannot separate any word from its context -- a little lesson I learned in seminary. There is a text, a pre-text, and a context for all communication. There is a thought or feeling that preceeds all language and an intention with every word that we deliver whether written or spoken. So guard your tongue and your words carefully.  Be careful what you say to your children, your parents, your lovers, and your friends.  Create as many memories of words that are uplifting, empowering and encouraging so that when there are errors, there are other moments that can be referenced.  Be careful how you speak when hurt or angry and  leave room for humility to admit when you have made a mistake. And forgiveness to forgive the mistakes of others.

Sticks and stones may break our bones AND words can also hurt choose them carefully today.

Peace and Love,