“Sticks and Stones” is a children’s rhyme that encourages “the victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation and to remain calm and good-natured,” according to Wikipedia.
The online encyclopedia reports that “Sticks and Stones” first appeared in the March 1862 issue of The Christian Recorder, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as:
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.
Well here’s a news flash, words do harm, and words do hurt—deeply.
In 1862, before slavery was abolished, the n-word was often used. And it hurt. And, it hurts now that the n-word still lingers, and an ABC network show “Blackish” takes a comedic stab at why it should never hurt. It’s just a word, the show claims.
I’m sure Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old student accused of making a bomb, felt hurt by the words used to describe him and the electronic clock he built for his engineering project. The words, “mistook it for a bomb,” attempted to explain away the actions of his teacher and school officials who never seemed to treat the clock as a real bomb threat, anyway.
Just a few weeks ago, hundreds of people gathered on Women of the ELCA’s Facebook page to rip into the author of the 10-second sermon.
Commenters hurled and liked mean words without knowing who the writer was or that 10-second sermons are how one writer hears the biblical lessons for that Sunday. Would the “word throwers” have changed their behavior if the writer had been a child or a new believer?
My mom says, “Choose your words carefully,” because the death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21).
Have you ever said something you wish you could take back?
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship for Women of the ELCA.
Photo by Sally Ford, used with permission