Sticks and Stones

Do you remember that rhyme from the playground, which said ‘words will never hurt me’.

It’s not always true.

Words have such incredible power, and there’s one comment which was made to me which has stuck with me more powerfully than any physical ‘injury’ I’ve ever had.

Sometimes it’s the words that are said, sometimes it’s where the words come from. And sometimes it’s a combination of the two.

Words have immense power, and they can be used to inspire every emotion under the sun.

There are times when one nice comment can lift your mood after a terrible week.

There are comments from friends which make you laugh until you cry.

There are words that remind you of treasured moments.

There are novels which people re-read again and again to be whisked away to another world.

There are non-fiction books to educate, to teach and to inspire.

But there are words which hurt. They cause a pain that feels almost physical.

And sometimes we say words which have an impact we’d never have intended them to, or wanted them to.

It can be hard to take back words.

But the effect those words caused can be worked on.

These thoughts have been prompted by reflection on a comment made to me around two years ago which have had a huge impact on me, and on friends of mine.

An example of words not intended to hurt.

But hurt me they did.

And of words that were never retracted.

Words I still hear.

And words spoken by someone I no longer exchange any words with at all.

I want to say today that words matter.

Feelings matter.

People around you matter.

Misunderstandings happen.

Misinterpretations happen.

But if these are not discussed or figured out, the weight of those words remains heavy.

The words repeat.

The words circle.

The words creep in on a bad day.

Because when I was struggling the most with my anxiety, I was told that I had ‘got really skinny. And not nice skinny.’

To this day, I hear those words.

And the comment was never explained. Never retracted. Never withdrawn.

When you’re at your most vulnerable, and an insensitive or misjudged comment hits you, its force is huge.

I hear those words in my head on a day I’m panicky. On a day I’m doubting how someone sees me. On a day I’m feeling a bit down about myself. On a day I’m feeling self-conscious.

Be careful with your words.

Care for those you care about.

And remember that, above all things, kindness and empathy should be the aim.

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