We all know the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will NEVER hurt me!” We’ve probably all used it at some point in our lives to ward off mean-spirited words aimed to make us upset. I know I did. We wanted that bully to know that their words had no meaning and were powerless over us- that we could not be shaken or moved by the verbal teasing and attack.
But is the saying TRUE? I know that I really never felt better after using the phrase against my antagonist. The fact of the matter is that the words hurt me for a long time after I told the person they didn’t. Sometimes I had to work really hard to counter-act what was said, and get my confidence back up. Words DO hurt. They hurt bad, and sometimes do more damage than a broken bone.
I’ve often wondered about this old saying. This past year I started memorizing scripture about the tongue, and realized just how much power words really do have. It’s all over the Bible, and here is some of the most notable wisdom about it.
Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
Proverbs 16:24 (ESV)
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Matthew 12:37 (ESV)
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Wow! Words have power, and the harsh ones hurt. So how do you “recover” or heal? What I’ve found over the years is that the best thing to overcome those hurtful spoken words, is to test them against what God says about me. Here are some personal examples:
“You’re too…..(short, goodie two-shoes, sensitive, place any insult here).” But what does God say? God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that he knows every hair on my head and knew me before I was born. God says he has a great plan for my life. The person that called me those names was wrong and I’m going to believe what God says about me, not what they said.
This works! But, it takes effort and you have to study your Bible to get those answers. I’ve applied this technique with my own sweet daughter and to my surprise, her strength abounds when we reflect on God’s word applied to the insult.
Kids especially need help overcoming these hurts with encouragement, God’s word, and sometimes an intervention from an adult when appropriate. (Gracious words bring sweetness to the soul and health to the body.) When kids truly know, feel and believe the insults are lies, it renders them completely powerless. It also renders the bully powerless.
So the next time your child comes home and says they were insulted, instead of telling them “sticks and stones”…try finding a truth in the Bible to counteract it. See if it doesn’t empower them and turn that hurt to strength. Test it and see if it works better than reciting that old saying and trying to just forget it!
Written by Stephanie Cameron, Author of Ella Mae, the Courageous Cheerleader