Remember the old playground chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Some of us said this in reply to a taunt or tease we didn’t want to allow into our minds. Sometimes we shouted it, as if the volume could drown the violent language meant to cut us down, rather than build us up.
I thought about this recently when I heard third-hand that someone was talking about me, though not to me, about something they believed I did. For a while, I felt bad, wondering what was going on with them (whoever “they” are) that they chose not to speak to me directly. I scoured my brain to imagine what I might have done, or didn’t do, to incur their disapproval.
I know I’m not alone in this experience. For no matter where we live or work, we encounter those who want to exert their power by belittling, degrading and denigrating, rather than encouraging, nurturing and supporting. We know and feel the words – especially as a clenched gut or pounding heart. It doesn’t matter whether they’re expressed in person or via phone, text, e-mail or social media. They often begin as “You” statements, and no matter how they’re expressed, they’re a form of violence.
Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, founder of the Center for Non-Violent [Compassionate] Communication, said: “While we may not consider the way we talk [or write] to be ‘violent,’ our words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or for ourselves.” So, while the playground chant sounds fine in theory, it rarely rings true, because words can hurt much more than sticks or stones.
If we break a bone, we can rush to an Emergency Room for physical mending, but emotional healing in the Emergency Room for devastated spirits and broken hearts can be a slow, painful process. Furthermore, the platitude not to take something personally may provide comfort later, though initially it spiritualizes away our true feelings and the pain the speaker doesn’t want to experience.
So, as we rise in faith, growing more emotionally healthy and spiritually mature, we discover: We get to choose our feelings — as well as our words. Then, we begin to act, speak, think and write differently by using life-affirming vocabulary which includes abundance, compassion, ease, energy, fun, harmony, joy, laughter, love, mutuality, patience, peace, support, and trust. We decide to nurture ourselves daily with silence, prayer and meditation. We find ways to refresh and renew at the spiritual venue of our choice and/or with positive spiritual education.
Especially, we remember: We’re each Divine Creations of God, the One Divine Creator, Unconditionally Loving, Infinitely Compassionate, and our words reflect that awesome, powerful truth.
© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.