Words: Sticks and Stones, or Bricks and Mortar

We’ve all been there, when someone is hurt by something that has been said, we have trotted out that trite little phrase “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt me”. But words have the power to inspire and intimidate, heal and hurt, praise and persecute. Words may be gone in a breath, but live forever in the heart. Words that are written, may never be erased. Words it seems are very powerful!

We live in age when more people than ever are communicating through the written word: texts, tweets, emails, Facebook posts, blogs. Words that once sent, can never be recovered. A huge amount of communication, upwards of 90% is body language. These written forms of social communication lack the nuances of spoken language, and as such are blunt tools. We all know how easy it is to misconstrue a message without the added guidance of tone and facial expression, winking emojis can’t replace a smiling face.

And sometimes words are designed to hurt, designed to incite, designed to persecute. Within the special needs community, words can seem incredibly important. The wrong words cause a huge amount of hurt. I believe that what is ultimately of the greatest importance, is not the words that were used, but the intention behind them. If the words are wrong, but the intention is right, we should forgive.

But if words are designed to hurt, what can we do to protect ourselves? Words are the smallest unit of language that can be used independently. Words are simply a cluster of letters, that arranged in a certain order, have a particular meaning. What then if we imagine those hurtful words as simple a collection of building blocks. If we don’t like the way they are put together, we can knock them down and put them back together a different way. The order of the letters is what gives the word its meaning, so we have the power to change vole into love! So if those words are designed to hurt, knock them down and rebuild!

Words are often a bully’s weapon of choice. In my pre-child Saartjie life, I spent some time receiving counselling after being bullied at work. There I was taught that no-one can make you feel anything, you choose how you feel. It’s not an easy thing to get your head around. It’s all about self-confidence and a positive mental attitude. In time I came to understand I had the power to control how I felt, I learnt to knock down the words and to stand up to the bully.

So undoubtedly words do have the power to hurt us, but rather than allow them to act as sticks and stones, let’s treat them as bricks and mortar. Let’s use words to tell ourselves we can, not we can’t. Let’s use words as a foundation to build ourselves up, to give us strength and courage. And with that strong foundation, that resilience, we can weather any storm of words that may blow over us.