“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Most everyone, myself included, has been guilty of saying this phrase sometime throughout their life. Teaching a young child this phrase, however, is one of the most detrimental lessons that child will be taught.
Children are taught from an early age to not let someone’s words hurt their feelings. While on the surface this is a very valuable and valid lesson to teach, it does more harm than good.
I love words. I even asked for a dictionary for Christmas. I love to learn every aspect, origin and meaning of a single word.
I realize how powerful words are to humans.
That power has the ability to make just about anything possible for mankind. Words are the building block of everything that has ever been done.
Hawk Nelson is a popular contemporary Christian band. One of their better-known songs is titled “Words.”
One repeating phrase within the song says, “Words can build us up. Words can break us down. Start a fire in our hearts or put it out.” This grouping of twenty words encompasses all the abilities a word has.
First, words can build you up. Okay, so words are capable of building skyscrapers that reach high into the sky. Some people have learned to harness this amazing power and eventually become motivational speakers.
Humans can easily be inspired by a few well-placed words. However, power is just power; it has no moral compass. Unless it is used in a positive manner, power can have detrimental effects. Words are no different. How easy is it to go to a grade-school classroom and find verbal bullying? It is incredibly easy! Every kid is surrounded by verbal abuse, whether they are the one dishing it out, taking it, or seeing classmates partake in the ugly act.
Nothing can be unborn once it has been born. A day cannot be relived once it is lived. Hurtful and good words alike can never be taken back once they are said.
Words, however, will not keep the skyscraper where it is. That building will either rise or fall depending on the words used. Hurt feelings will never be the same. Yes, those wounds can heal, but a scar will be present reminding you that it is not the original flesh.
A different way to look at the power of words is in the second half of the phrase in Hawk Nelson’s song. It says that words can “start a fire in our hearts or put it out.”
James 3:5 says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest fire is set ablaze by such a small fire!”
Man discovers fire! Imagine a world with no fire. First, we would all be cave men and I wouldn’t have this computer to write this article. Secondly, and most importantly, we would have a cold, dark home. Words will bring light to the dark soul. A fire can be started by a few simple words.
However, a fire will suffocate without oxygen. If that flame is choked out by “ashy” words, that fire will never mature into a bed of coals—where the major source of heat comes from.
So, seeing what words have the power to do, I believe it is very detrimental to teach children that only physical objects can hurt them. Flesh wounds heal much faster and neater than heart wounds. And the heart is where words, good or bad, target. Children need to be taught that every word they utter will change how people perceive him or her, whether that is in a good or bad way.