"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."
For years I believed them. They were older than me, they had life experience, they held college degrees and they were people I looked up to. They'd never lie to me....or would they?
It didn't take me long to realize that I'd been dooped. This was one of the biggest lies that I had ever been told. And it continues to be told to children the world over.
Sure, its true that sticks and stones can and may, in fact, break bones, give you bruises and scratch you up pretty bad. That part is the truth.
But they lied about the second half of that little rhyme - Names will never hurt me.
Names (ie: labels) CAN and DO hurt.
How many of you remember being bullied in school? How many of you remember the NEGATIVE labels that were given to you in school? Were you called stupid, gay, smelly, a slut? Maybe you were labeled a nerd, a jock, a band geek. I'm willing to bet you can remember not only those names but the people who said them to you and exactly how it made you feel in that moment. Perhaps those words and names even had an affect on who you are today.
But how many of you can remember the POSITIVE labels that were given to you?
How many times do you remember your peers calling you kind, giving, considerate, smart, talented, musical, athletic? I can count on two fingers all the positive things that were said to me in high school and both of them were from teachers.
That's a terribly sad reality for many of us.
Perhaps our brains are wired to remember the negative. Or maybe those awful words were just that powerful and lasting. Because even if they're not true, somehow our brain finds ways to believe they are.
There is power in words. They can be used as weapons, to put a negative label on someone, to hurt them and cut them to the bone. They can be used to make the most beautiful girl in the room feel like the ugliest. Words have the ability to make the smartest kid feel like the dumbest.
But they can also be used to uplift, inspire and help someone reach their full potential. What if that beautiful girl, who happens to be terribly shy, was instead told of her potential? What would that do for her self esteem? Perhaps the smart kid learns he has something in common with his peers and is accepted instead of rejected. What would welcoming words do for him?
As writers we have the ability to change the world. Our words will have a lasting impact on all who read our stories. So how do you want to be remembered?
Choose your words carefully. Are you going to inflict or inspire?