Remember this rhyme? I love old sayings because in addition to being easy to remember; they are also concise, remain relevant and contain deeper meaning. When I was a kid, I was scared to say this to teasing bullies because I thought it might just encourage them to start throwing sticks and stones instead!! However, that means I actually understood the true essence of this age-old chant; which is really an affirmation to the self to only fear what is truly harmful. While I might have been subjectively injured by their words ... it was the possible objective injury from sticks and stones that I feared. I think that while politeness and good manners can be insisted upon, there is still a message here that is desperately needed in today's world.
If you ruminate on the "sticks and stones" rhyme, it becomes apparent that while you might not be able to control physical injury from someone hurtling hard objects at you (ie may break my bones), you certainly can control the power of someone to wound your psyche with their words (ie will never hurt me). The choice lies within us. Now I know this is easier said than done because we all know that words do hurt. Sure they do!! However, today's attempt to control another's speech by censoring writer's works of fiction, the insistence on replacing, redefining or adopting certain words, and even shutting down whole conversations (beyond requesting commonplace politeness and manners), is a misplaced attempt to instill kindness. It is not the way forward because what constitutes hurtful words, and even kindness, is very subjective. Instead we need to remember that the power lies within us to exercise our freedom of association and associate with whom and what thoughts we choose. This is especially important for children and teens which is probably why this was a nursery rhyme!
This Valentine's Day; may I humbly suggest that if you know a loved one who is allowing themselves to be damaged by other people's perceptions of them, or who has bought into society's new trend of "cancelling" other people's polite and thoughtful disagreements, that it would be a very loving gift to remind them that they already possess the power to ensure that "words will never hurt me"!
Remember Hagrid in Harry Potter? When Draco called Hermione a "mudblood" (offensive term in the wizarding world), he said, "He did not!" (acknowledged her pain which was kind) but then he advised, "Don't you think on it Hermione. Don't you think on it for one minute." This was incredibly insightful because he was instructing her not to allow others to determine how she perceived herself.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2022
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