50 Thoughts: Calling BS on “Sticks and Stones”

Originally posted September 8, 2018

Yeah, that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” spiel we’ve all heard and likely delivered at some point in our lives?


I suspected, going into my “Let’s write for 50 days” experiment, that I may lose a few subscribers to my blog. I don’t blame them. Getting multiple emails a day from The Gap and Old Navy is at best a nuisance, and at worst, highly annoying. So I can appreciate people tiring of seeing my email in their inbox every day, all beginning with “50 Thoughts.” I’m sure it looks like spam.

But then someone emailed me today to unsubscribe, calling it “horrible spam.”


I was reminded of the Tao of Julia Roberts. Or more precisely, “The World As We Know It According to Vivienne Ward”:

Uh, yeah!

Grimacing at this very short note from someone I’ve never met, I’ll admit … it does feel like a tiny little gut punch when you are putting a personal side of yourself out into the world. And I began to wonder just who the hell first thought to say something like, “Sticks and stones …”, because it’s pretty dismissive.

According to Wikipedia, it seems to have been first used in the mid-1800s, 1862 to be exact, in The Christian Recorder. And from there it became a generally accepted adage as a means to teach children to remain calm in the face of name calling.

I understand the sentiment, for sure — and it’s something that I think we can all aspire to — the ability to turn the other cheek when people start talking smack about you. (Donald, Cardi B, I’m looking at you.) But I think what’s missing is either a pre-amble to that verse, or a follow up, to acknowledge a person’s hurt feelings. Someone has as much of a right to say, “Wow, that cuts pretty deep” as the person who dropped the bomb has to say it in the first place.

As we all should be able to understand these days, words do matter. Words can sting — even the most well-adjusted person can get knocked off his or her game with an unkind thought. The older we get, the better prepared we should be to adapt and roll with it when it happens, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to remember that not all hearts harden to the point of imperviousness to pain.

If someone says something that hurts, it’s OK to acknowledge it, even when you’ve long since left the playground. Just don’t forget to let it go.

Today’s recommendation: Love Warrior. Just looking at the review, I was reminded what a great choice this is. And of a time when I was still hoping Donald wouldn’t win. What I’d paid to have that anxiety back over the times we live in now. Sheesh.

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