Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me. We have all heard and probably repeated that phase while sticking our tongue out at some bully. We are now much smarter and realize there is physical pain (a broken bone) and emotional pain (a broken spirit). Both are equally painful, but it’s easier to identify most physical pain and treat it immediately. On the other hand, we tend to absorb emotional pain like a sponge, and don’t recognize it’s there until it overflows outwardly.
It’s important to understand that the words we say do matter. We are raising a generation of children who think they can say what they want to whomever they want then label it as a joke and all is well. Children as young as ten are committing suiside and not because of a broken bone. I tell my students if they tell a “joke” and the person the joke is about isn’t laughing then it’s not a joke—it’s an insult. The peanut gallery doesn’t determine if it’s a joke - only the person targeted gets to make that call.
Still, It’s not necessary to point out or make fun of each other's deficiencies. We know where we stand. We know we are not perfect. The fact is that words have the power to destroy or uplift someone's emotional state. Wouldn’t it be better to use words that uplift each other instead?
My new book, I Write Rhymes, deals with emotional pain and how the power of tongue can cripple our children and make them think they are less than or not good enough. I see children inflicting emotional pain in each other everyday. There is only so much I can do as a writer and teacher to combat the negativity. We have to continually educate children about the role they can play in inflicting or combatting emotional pain. These conversations must start in the home then supported by our society.
We have to change how we interact with each other. Our pain doesn’t have to become someone else’s pain. And we don’t have to become parasites and revel in another person’s pain either.