Sticks and Stones and Broken Bones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” blurted the girl as she came toe to toe with her playmate’s unkind remarks. There are probably more up-to-date comebacks for today’s world, but I think this one has stood the test of time. The thing is it doesn’t take a child long to realize that “sticks and stones …” is a myth.

The dictionary explains the word “blurt” like this: to exclaim something suddenly and without careful consideration. I grew up in a three-sister family, and as most siblings do, now and then we tossed out some unkind remark. Oh, dear. Come to think about it, we BLURTED.

There are various types of injuries. Some are physical like when my daughter was in second grade and broke her arm diving the wrong direction off a slippery slide. By the time I arrived, initially the blood and sand caked in her nose drew my attention from the more serious trauma of a broken arm that lay limply at her side. She eventually healed, leaving little evidence of the crash landing.

I never broke any bones as a child, but I do remember an emotional injury—a simple offhanded comment. By the time I was in fifth grade I towered over most of my friends like a giraffe in a duck pond. I didn’t end up exceptionally tall, just got my height early, but my tallness bothered me then. I longed to be teeny tiny like my friend Lynn.

One day my teacher came down the outside hallway from lunch and commented on our sloppy line as we gathered near the door of the classroom. “The first thing I saw was BIG JANET CLARK standing out of line.” Did he have to say it so loudly? Now that I think about it, if Lynn was out of line that day, she wouldn’t have been noticed ….

I idolized that teacher. I imagine that accounts for the hurt I felt. A fifth-grade girl wants to be cute—or smart—but never BIG! The fact that I remember that insignificant comment into adulthood tells me that those words cut deeper and lasted longer than if I’d smashed my nose or broken my arm. Maybe thinking of our words as more powerful than sticks and stones will help us stop blurting.

Leave a Comment