"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me".
These words from my childhood are vividly etched in my mind. We chanted them in singsong fashion when someone was mean to us. We chanted these words in a childish, fultile attempt to keep harmful, hurting words out. To make sure they couldn't get anywhere near our souls. To prevent damage. To prevent breaking within. We believed that if we said these words enough, we would come to believe them. That words alone, verbal abuse, could not hurt. Only sticks and stones, physical abuse, could.
What a lie. That was the '50's. Decades ago. Another lifetime ago. In a culture that no longer exists. But words still exist. Will always exist.
Do parents teach their children these words now? In the more enlightened 21st century? Do children chant these words on the way to school or on the playground in this year, 2012, trying to keep the hurtful, harmful words at bay?
As I write these words, a saying from the wisest man who ever lived, an ancient king by the name of Solomon keeps overriding the childish chant that still rings in my ears: death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Death. Hurtful words, hateful words have the power to kill, to destroy just as surely as sticks, stones, clubs, guns, grenades and bombs. Words leave invisible wounds. Wounds just as deep, nay even deeper, than weapons. Yes, weapons wound. Weapons kill. Weapons destroy. The wounds, the suffering they cause are very visible. But they only have the power to wound or kill the body. Words have the power to destroy the person. Who they are. How they perceive themselves. Their future.
Words. Gossip. Slander.
Where do these hurtful words come from? Why do people hurt us, wound us?
I've cried out this "why" many times over my life. I experienced what we now realize is verbal abuse from very young childhood up into my adult and middle age years. I've carried the wounds deep inside me. Never looking at them. Pretending they weren't there. Pretending they didn't hurt. Didn't impact me. Like an ostrich with its head hidden in the sand. I pretended. Things would go well for a while. Then, without warning, events surrounding my life would mesh with those latent, invisible wounds. I crashed and burned emotionally time after time, year after year, decade after decade. The wounds deep inside had never been tended to. Healing balm had never been applied. The wound always denied. Hidden. Deep down. Forbidden. A secret chamber deep inside locked tightly.
And then, one day, the key was handed to me. The key to unlock that deep, dark place. That place of hurt. For healing to begin.
What would I do with that key? Or would I ignore it. Do nothing?