Sticks and Stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. What lie. What a serious, misinformed lie. Maybe, there was a time when people were stronger, but I find it difficult to believe that there is no one out there who hasn’t been hurt by something someone said. Feelings are feelings, they have been the same from the beginning. There are things that make you happy, things that will cause you to laugh, things that will make you angry, things that will bring a tear to your eyes. Words, have the power to do all of that and more. Yet, we still tell our children to recite this rhyme and believe it. To a point, maybe, just maybe the rhyme can help, but not much. And it really depends on what is being said and by whom.
It is not unusual for siblings to give each other a hard time. My own brothers still tease me relentlessly, but I know that it isn’t done maliciously. It is done out of intended fun and love. Of course the words only go so far realizing that there are limits and respecting the person and their feelings. I believe that is where we fail our children, we do not teach them respect for others, respect for their feelings and that there are limits and boundaries to teasing. We neglect to tell them that name calling is not allowed, we neglect to tell then that others have feelings and their feelings are just as important. That there are ways to express anger and that taking that anger out on others is not acceptable. Even if the other person is the cause of that anger.
When young people are in school, especially public schools, they are subject to the abuse of others. There are always the students who are different. They are the ones who stick out because they do not fit in with the others. Educationally, financially, maturity, socially, they are not on the same plane and therefore the perfect target. They could be of a different nationality therefore in the minority. They could be of a different faith. They could be living an alternate lifestyle. None of which gives anyone else the right to calling names or attacking physically or otherwise.
Do you really think that the harm done in elementary school or middle school is forgotten? It may lessen, but it never fully goes away. Like a dark, hidden secret it lurks in the background. The pain lies hidden waiting for a chance to rear up and bring the hurting back. The feelings of being less than others, of not being as good as the others lingers and causes problems. Self-esteem is a fragile thing and once damaged is potentially never fully whole again. It is important that we teach out children that we are each in our own right special. We each have our own talents, abilities and capabilities. They will not match what others are capable of doing, because we are not them. Look to ourselves and practice, work, train to be better at what we know we can do. As we train, something that is a forever ongoing thing, we learn how to ignore the taunts and jeers of others. We can and should teach our children that many times the actions of others are brought on by their own low self esteem. How sad is it when someone deliberately tears another down just to try and build themselves up?
As a student in elementary school preparing to go into what was then called Junior High, I got into a disagreement with another student. The other student one who fit in perfectly with the others. I on the other hand did not. His final verbal attack was to call me a name. The name stuck and many of the ones in that class that day began calling me by that name. It spread through the school quickly. You think a wildfire spreads fast? Try keeping up with the news of an ugly moniker attached to a student. It was impossible to walk down a hallway without hearing that name. The pain and embarrassment nearly impossible to bear. But bear I must as not going to school was not an option. For the rest of that school year and part way into the next that name was repeated often. Only when I finally stood up to one of those calling me the name did it finally begin to stop. Here it is so many years later and the pain is still there, lingering in the background. It is still there, waiting all opportunities to cause problems, causing me to feel less at times, incapable, unworthy. Even as I know better, that doesn’t stop the pain. (Am I feeling sorry for myself? No, simply trying to prove a point)
With that being said, it is important that we do not lessen the pain of others. Just because we may be stronger and less effected by the childishness and cruelty of others, does not mean that is the same for everyone. Many can not laugh off the words, the names, the attacks. Some are not able to “brush it off” and walk away.
Attackers have followers. It is my belief that the followers, follow in the hope that they will never be the one being attacked. That they will not be on the receiving end of the ugliness they are witnessing. With the followers it quickly becomes a pack mentality. There is the original attacker, with all of their backers chiming in with their own comments and actions. One thing that makes it worse is that now, social media is involved. It is not uncommon for videos of the attacks to show up on the internet. At times, the videos are not fully about proving one’s prowess in attacking others, but once again in trying to make themselves bigger, more important, stronger. If they make the victim less, then of course they are more. They are the star of the video even though the star is the villain. Music videos, games and movies have desensitized them from the feelings of others.
It is up to us, to make the difference. When our children are young, teach them manners, teach them respect for themselves and for others. Remind them that others have feelings as well and their feelings are just as important as their own. Teach them as they grow to act responsibly. Teach them honesty. Teach them about hard work and not expecting handouts. Spend time with them. Know what makes them who they are. Teach them to choose their friends carefully. Spend time with those of like interests and activities. To spend time with those who have been raised with the same standards. It doesn’t have to be boring to have a good character. There are many activities out there that make life exciting.
It shows much more maturity and inner strength to not return ugliness with ugliness. It is the stronger person who can walk away. Truth be told, that is not only not easy, that is not always possible. In a perfect world, one would hope that instructors and other school personnel would intervene and stop harassment. In a truly perfect world, the harassment would never happen. I would say that there may come a time when one must find a way to stand their ground. When I stood my ground, the worst of the tormenting stopped. Times are different today, my attack was before any zero tolerance policies were put in place. Today the victim would be punished just as much as the tormentor. Standing one’s ground in this day and age is not the smartest move. One never knows what weapons the attacker may have in their possession. It is impossible to know how many others may be on the side of the attacker. The attacker may resort to attacking by surprise.
The sad truth is, young bullies, many times turn into adult bullies. They have formed the habit of feeling more important by making others feel less. They have perfected the technique of name calling, insults, ridicule and all of the many other ways to attack and hurt their victims.
Sticks and Stones may break bones, but words can definitely hurt..if one has been injured by the unkindness and cruelty of others, they may need counseling to help in the healing. They will definitely need understanding. To tell one hurting to “toughen up and get over it” won’t work. To act as if the pain isn’t real, isn’t worthy of serious consideration and recognition doesn’t make it go away. Does not make it any less than it is. Definitely doesn’t make the one suffering feel any better. We need to recognize the signs and be ready to act. We need to take care of and teach our children in the way we want them to grow.