Sticks and Stones

Ah yes, I remember it well. Defiantly yelling back at the boys on the playground who derided me with their pet names like Crispy Critter and Crazy Christie. (My mother said that meant they liked me; I didn’t believe her for a minute.) It was a long time ago, back when verbal bullying during recess was ignored by playground aides.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That’s what I said, that’s what I’d been told, so that’s what I believed.

Now I know differently. Every kid wants to be liked and accepted by peers, cherished and encouraged by family. Hateful or cutting words can penetrate deep. They tear at the heart and can cause us to to reject the person we are, or hide our true identity behind a wall of protection.

Calling names creates shame because names attack the child inside. Young people believe they can change behavior, but if the person inside is bad, nothing can make that right. Stupid, lazy, a bitch. I wasn’t called those names by my parents, but I know plenty of people who were.

Now I realize that children, too, with their words can cut at the hearts of parents who love them. In fact anyone can tear at the flimsy or strong fabric of connection we have with ourselves, with other people, or with God.

Hearts are fragile. They hold emotions and dreams and core beliefs about who we are. They can and do heal, but it takes time and care. Hearts heal in relationship, the way they were torn. In relationship.

7 April 2009