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).
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) . . .
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