Sticks and stones may break my bones; but words will never hurt me.
This saying is golden, and should be drilled into the head of every boy. It has fallen into disfavor with many nowadays, and is, sadly, no longer a staple proverb for boys. The common complaint about it goes something like this: “Of course words hurt! Words are powerful!” This complaint demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the phrase. It is not a denial of the power or importance of words. Of course words matter. Of course they are powerful. I remember the encouragements of grandfathers, my father, and coaches. I remember words with my brother. I can be energized tremendously for the work to which I’m called by the encouraging words of men I respect.
The power of God to save dead rebels comes in the form of words.
I’m the last guy who is going to deny the importance of words. Words are the substance of my work as an evangelist and teacher of God’s Word.
But still I love the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones; but words will never hurt me.” It is an affirmation of our choice and responsibility in how we respond to the words of others. If a guy on the street stabs me as he passes by, I have no choice in how I react. My reaction is guaranteed: bleed profusely. If a guy thrice my size punches me in the nose, I have no choice in how I react: lose all contours in my nose, spray snot blood on shirt. If a guy takes a perfectly carved Louisville Slugger and cranks it from behind against the base of my skull, I have no choice in how I react: peace out world, heaven bound is my soul.
But none of that is the case with words. Say something to me or about me, and I still have a choice as to how I will respond. Say something not true about me, and I am responsible to recognize it as false, to give it as much weight as a hummingbird fart, and to pity you as a poor ding dong. Say something true about me, and I am responsible to agree, and react properly.
“You’re an idiot.” “You don’t know the half of it!”
“You’re ugly.” “Oh man, tell me about it. That whole genetics thing is a downer.”
“You’re a bigot.” “No, actually, I just have a big gut, but I can see the confusion.”
And after all of that, I still have intact ribs, nose, and head.
A kid I know is going to a counselor on a regular basis because he is bullied in school. One day I asked him about the bullying, expecting to hear some hard core swirly stories. Instead, he answered, “People call me fat.” Some lady at that government school thinks she is doing him a favor by sending him to counseling for being called fat. She is not doing him any favors. All he needs to do is ignore it. Nobody is stoning him. Just give that boy some Proverbs! “Don’t answer the fool according to his folly, lest ye become an all-caps DINGUS.” “Answer the fool according to his folly, lest he be allowed to remain an arrogant DINGUS.”
“I may be fat, but it sure will come in handy when I beef stew on your face.”
Too many young boys are being raised to be hyper-emotional sissies. They need to know the goodness of sliding head first and the toughness of not walking around like wilted victims. Wilted victims are lame providers, lame protectors, and lame leaders.
“Oh, someone said something mean to you? You’re fine. Don’t sweat it.”
“Oh, someone stabbed you? Um, is the bleeding stopped? Well, good, here’s some dirt. Rub it in the wound.”
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Teach your boys to choose to not wilt under the mean words of others.