life, thoughts

Sticks and Stones

Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves affect us. ~ Stephen R. Covey


“Sticks and Stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” was something I mentioned in a post I wrote over a year ago. A few people had contacted me afterward, about how horrible that saying is, and that it shouldn’t be said anymore.

Recently, I saw a lecture online discussing that very phrase and saying it was a good thing. As usual, this got me to analyzing. Since my blog is mostly about introspection, let’s examine this from both sides.

The lecturer said that if someone literally throws sticks and stones at us, they actually will hurt us physically. We’ll bleed, bruise and so forth.


He went on to say that when nasty words are thrown at us, we can choose whether or not to be hurt.


As human beings, can we really choose whether or not to have feelings? Is there a switch somewhere on my body that I’m unaware of that can turn off emotions?

Okay, so let’s say someone calls me a name . . . say they make a reference to my ethnicity with an ethnic slur, and it offends me/hurts my feelings (doesn’t bother me, but this is an example).

Now what?

Should they be called an ethnic slur in return? Should the person get fired from their job? Should they get a ticket from a cop for offending me with their speech? Should they be arrested?

In my early 20’s, I saw a therapist once where I moaned and groaned about someone who had hurt me. I told the therapist exactly what I thought of that person, which included using nasty names. They were to blame for hurting me, for making me angry and for the bad things in my life.

The therapist said, “You’re right, that person is all of those nasty things and treated you hurtfully. Now, what are you going to do about it?”

Her question baffled me. What was I going to do about it? Why should I do anything? It was that person’s fault for hurting me. That person should do something about it, not me.

I couldn’t put the question out of my mind, so I started asking myself questions. What was I going to do about it? Was there anything I could do about it?

Here’s what I figured out. 1) I realized it’s natural to feel hurt and gave myself permission to feel. 2) I respected myself enough to either cut out disrespectful treatment from my life, or if not, learn  a new, better way to handle it. And 3) . . .

I got over it.

Am I saying that the lecturer was right about choosing to be hurt?


No, and well, yes.

Humans have feelings that can’t be ignored. Once we respect our emotions and perhaps express them in a healthy manner (talking it out, writing it out, etc.), we do have a choice about how long we want to feel the pain. We can be hurt for an hour, a day, a week, or a lifetime. We have no control over others, but we do have control over how we handle something.

Next week I’ll have a related post about emotions.

The strongest principle for growth lies in human choice. ~ George eliot


How can something bother you if you won’t let it? ~Terri Guillemets


28 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones”

  1. The internal injuries are as bad, sometimes if not worse than the physical ones. Personally, I allow myself to be angry for at least a day when someone hurts/offends me before I let go otherwise if I try to get over it immediately I find it just festers. I realized long ago that holding a grudge will hurt me more than the ‘offender’ because they may have forgotten about it while I am still angry. However, this does not mean that I don’t let other person know how I feel – I do that when I feel strongly about the issue or if the offender seems to be getting into a habit of doing/saying the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Z. Lady. You’ve made some great points here. You’re so right about holding a grudge hurting us more than the ‘offender.’ It weighs us down and makes it difficult to move forward. Your thoughts on this are so well reasoned with common sense. Thank you for sharing them.

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  2. When I worked (in Human Resources) I often mediated disputes. One thing I told people was that they should allow themselves 24 hours of wallowing self pity. They could try or rant or swear, whatever was their style (in the privacy of the home of course). Then they needed to start problem solving. Let it go? Confront the person? Look for another job (yes, sometimes that’s the solution)? Figure out how to move on. Obviously that is easier for some issues than for others but ultimately, it works for the big ones too.

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    1. That was very good advice, Kate. You were made for that job. Though I usually tend to understand both sides of an issue (my Libra attribute), I don’t know how much patience I would’ve had if they didn’t come to an understanding. So glad they had you instead of me. 😉

      Thanks for taking time to read. I enjoyed reading about your experience.

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  3. I agree with your assessment Lori – in an ideal world we’d choose not to feel hurt immediately and recognise that it was probably something in the other person that caused them to be hurtful – but I think it’s almost impossible to do in practice! But you’re right, we can choose what we do with that hurt in the future.

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    1. Hi Andrea. I think that feeling hurt immediately is a natural human response. But, once we have time to let it sink in, it should occur to us what you said …. that it’s something in the other person that caused them to be hurtful. We do get hurt, but we don’t have to remain victims forever. In fact, once I realized that I know longer had to be a victim to that person who hurt me (mentioned in the post), my own life got better.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Have a great weekend. 🙂

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  4. sticks and stones may hurt my bones but chains and whips excite me. :). No. Yes?
    But seriously I think that words from strangers should only be taken with a pinch of salt. We are living in a society where we seek validation from every Tom Dick and harry. But it’d be amazing if we worked instead towards getting validations from a few groups of really close people who are gonna call us out on our bullshit and also elevate us to the next level when we are down and give our ego a boost when we write or achieve something. These people should be the bffs and parents and that is it. Close group of 10 people at max. That way our heart and ego will not be bruised when random people on the net or not so important people in social gatherings make sniding remarks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there whynotdotcomcom. I agree with you completely. I might add that we might want to choose that small group of people carefully. Sometimes, even family members aren’t the right people to lift us up. Sometimes dysfunctional dynamics can get in the way. It would depend on which family members we trust to speak honestly and kindly to us. Of course, we need our friends, too.

      Many have addressed being bullied as a child, when we don’t know better. But, as an adult, we know we can choose what we do with that hurt. We could use it to grow and turn it into something positive, or we can remain victims. It’s up to us. Next week I’ll be posting something that has to do with this last sentence.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and for the thoughtful comment. Have a nice weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” was trotted out all the time when I was a child and it seemed to have perfect logic. It was almost a talisman against letting insults hurt you (even though they did!). Then you realise that the most hurtful blows are the verbal ones. I do like the idea of choice: that you can choose to be hurt or not be hurt, as I get older this gets a lot easier – I seem to care much less now about what others think of me. I don’t know whether it’s an active choice, or more that I’m too jaded and distracted with other things. I also have a bad short term memory for everything now. But it took a long time to get there and came with age. The strange thing is, although these days I don’t care as much if I meet new people and if I detect that they don’t like me, or if I hear something negative was said about me, I do still dwell sometimes on things that were said about me years & years ago. It’s usually when I’m low, but it’s still strange how these things surface. Verbal abuse and verbal bullying from people when I was a teenager can still make me feel almost suicidal. Maybe because when you’re younger the hurt is twice as bad?


    1. Good thoughts on this DS. I think yes … age has something to do with why we don’t get offended as easily. I was extremely touchy when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because we don’t really have a clear grasp on who we are yet, so we think what others say might be true? Maybe it comes down to self-worth. If we don’t believe in our own worth, then we’ll be offended or hurt from others words. As you read on your blog from my comment, I struggled for years with hurtful things from my husband’s family. I think that toughened me up. 😛 In the long run, I truly believe it all boils down to wanting to be loved. Whether people realize it or not, everyone wants to be loved, even the bully. It’s really sad that in our society, it’s easier to say “I hate” than “I love.” This is why I write about inward journeys, to find who we really are inside. Infertility forced me into finding myself, and it turned into a spiritual journey I hadn’t expected.

      Thank you for sharing your very interesting thoughts.


  6. I think it’s easier for adults to “choose not to have hurt feelings,” but in the case of children, it doesn’t always work so easily. They don’t have the experience, the confidence, or the coping skills to choose not to let the words hurt them. Hence the traumatic responses to being bullied.

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    1. This is a great point, Anneli. Perhaps it is a good idea for parents of bullied children to get some kind of help for that child. Most especially in the way of getting them professional help to give them self-confidence and tools on how to process.

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          1. I was bullied terribly at school but I didn’t tell my parents because I didn’t want to be bullied for having my parents come to the school to stand up for me. They knew I got teased, but they had no idea how bad it was. I was too embarrassed to tell them. What got me through was that I always knew that they loved me no matter what.

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            1. That’s so sad, but also wonderful that you felt the love of your parents to get you through. In middle school, I was mistreated not only by the kids, but by the teachers as well. I wrote the short story for my blog. Looks like you read it, but the story was just a tiny tidbit of what happened. There was much more to it then I could write. The story was actually meant to be inspirational to show how

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              1. It’s really important for kids to have a support system in place; whether it’s parents, a trusted teacher, an adult friend, someone you know you can go to if it gets really bad. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I got through it, but maybe it made me tougher. It also made me crack down on bullies when I worked as a teacher, and no one in my class would tease or ridicule another classmate without us talking about it and coming to a resolution about what should happen.

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                1. Hi Anneli. I was just working on my draft for next week’s post that’s related to this sticks and stones post, and it got me thinking about your comment. I realized that as an adult, you actually took what happened to you and used it for something positive when you became a teacher. That’s what I mean by choosing what we do with the hurt. You didn’t remain a victim, but instead, used it for good for your students. ❤

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  7. I think you know where I stand on the subject, Lori. I’ve always believed that people who try and beat others down through their words or actions are typically insecure and jealous. For me, the sting might irritate for a while, but I refuse to allow someone to have that kind of control over my emotional well being. I’m more of a “kill em with kindness” person. However the kindness must come truly from your heart, not as a way to manipulate the situation…if that makes sense.

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    1. I completely understand, Jill. It’s like that old saying, don’t let someone live rent free in your head. I used to be that way, allowing others cruel words to hurt me to the point of being unable to move forward. I came to learn that my own insecurities were causing the pain to linger. Like you said, though it hurts for a time, when I look inward and remind myself of my worth, it fades away.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic. Hope you’re enjoying your summer.

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  8. In terms of the sticks and stones saying, I’ve always thought it isn’t quite accurate either. While sticks and stones leave us physical wounds, those heal up. Verbal wounds, on the other hand, can last a lifetime, even if we try to control how we react to them. That’s easier said than done, isn’t it. Some harmful words set up residence in our brain whether we want to let them affect us or not. We tell ourselves they can’t hurt us, but the sting of them remains. Sigh.

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    1. It is true, words can feel like daggers that cause festering wounds. But, like in my post, the big question is, what are we going to do about it? For me, healing is about looking within, and it’s why I write about introspection.

      I’m always grateful to see you here, Carrie. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Hope you’re enjoying your summer.

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