Sticks and Stones

posted in: Thinking Aloud | 1

Sticks and Stones

sticks and stones

There has been a full assault on the old wisdom that always said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Judging from the number of posts, likes and shares on facebook, the traditional wisdom has apparently been rejected by our society.

One post I read followed the traditional quote this way, “NOT TRUE! Words hurt, scar and leave wounds all the way down to the soul! Be careful how you use your words.

Applying Overlapping Responsibilities

There’s a big problem with this rampage against the traditional quote and I think I can summarize it clearly with my concept of Overlapping Responsibilities (which you can read about by clicking here).

I believe that, instead of looking at this subject as one, ultimate truism that applies to everyone, we should be looking at each person’s role in the equation. My concept of overlapping responsibilities says that the best things in life happen in the overlap. When my responsibilities overlap with your responsibilities, the outcome is the best of what we both have to offer.

The Bullied

Applying that to sticks and stones, I believe it’s important to look at the original wisdom of the traditional quote. I was taught that quote to prepare me for what would happen to me in the world. My parents prepared me for life by teaching me something that would protect me from harmful words I might hear when I was out in the real world.

And really, it wasn’t just my parents. That was the conventional wisdom when I was a kid. I remember my Scout master in Hawaii telling us to be proud when we walked the streets with our Boy Scout Uniforms on. He warned us ahead of time that people would make fun of us, but he also told us that we would become better men for it.

Our role as the bullied is to be strong. We need to learn to know our own self worth. We MUST work on being better at not letting other people bother us.

Please notice that the original quote is in first person. It says “words will never hurt ME“. I used to chant that quote as a mantra on some days, when I was growing up, to strengthen me and remind me that who I really was was something bigger and more important than who THEY thought I was.

So no, I have no problem with the original quote. It rings true for us who have been bullied.

The Bullies

It is true that words can hurt some people. Not everyone has had parents like mine to teach them to be strong. Not everyone has grown up with the famous saying to remind them to stay strong. even when people are assaulting them verbally.

It is wrong to say harmful things to people. It has always been wrong, even when the traditional quote was still popular.

The responsibility of the bully is to not be a bully. If you know something you say is hurtful to someone, then don’t say it! And if you did inadvertently say something that hurt someone, then you should apologize in an honest way and tell them that you didn’t know it would hurt them.

In the Overlap

If both sides were to take their roles seriously, then life would be better for everyone. On the one side you would have people doing what they can to be strong and not let what people say bother them. On the other hand, people would also be trying to be less abusive in the way they say things.

That’s the overlap!

What it basically boils down to is each side taking responsibility for themselves. Instead of everyone always blaming everyone else for their problems, the overlapping responsibilities concept says that, if I fulfill my responsibility and you fulfill yours, then everything will be better for both of us.

My Concern

I can tell you that it concerns me that the “sticks and stones” thing has become unpopular. We need our young people to be strong. It is impossible to be shielded from every verbal assault. I like the way my parents brought us up. They taught me that stuff like that was going to happen and that I needed to be ready for it. And they don’t know HOW RIGHT THEY WERE.

The world is full of cruel, cruel people. Yes, it is wrong for them to be cruel. No, they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. But the truth is, they often do get away with it and those people will always be there.

So why is there such a big campaign against the old saying? We need it more than ever before.

What are your thoughts on this subject?


  1. Making Words Count

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post. It is true that we must use our words wisely – that is our responsibility. Words have more power to make or break than many people realize. God created our universe using words. Of course, it is foolish to assume everyone else will be responsible with their words, so it is wise to prepare for potential “word attacks”. Perhaps the problem many people have with this “old saying” is that when read superficially, this saying suggests that words CANNOT do damage, which is not true. Word-induced injury is a real condition which can be lethal in some cases. The scriptures actually tell us that some words penetrate deep and produce the effects of deadly wounds in some people: “The words of a whisperer or slanderer are like dainty morsels or words of sport [to some, but to others are like deadly wounds]; and they go down into the innermost parts of the body [or of the victim’s nature].” Proverbs 26:22 (AMPC)

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