Today, I am going to borrow my blog theme from my esteemed Rabbi Emeritus of my shul. He spoke eloquently about the old saying “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”. How many of you can recite this line by heart, hearing it from your parents and saying it yourself to the neighborhood bully? I know I can certainly remember it. And yet, how wrong it is! It has never been more wrong than in our world of social media where words are Tweeted, Facebooked, Linkedined, and so on. Our words have never been so public, so scrutinized, so damaging.
My mother, may she rest in peace, used to tell me a story about what she said when I was born. She knew I would be her last child and she already had a son so she wanted a daughter in the worst way. When she saw me, her newborn son, for the first time, she told the nurse to take me away, she didn’t want me. Telling me this story was interesting but I wish I didn’t know that. I’m now 62 years old and the words still live in my brain. When I was in high school, we had a disagreement about something and she told me go hang myself. Mom and I shared this earth for 47 years and I don’t want you to think she was a bad mom because she wasn’t. She was a wonderful mother and yet these words have stayed with me. I would rather have had sticks and stones. I don’t think my mother and father never spanked me or struck me. If they did, it has been long forgotten. But the words they said, or the ones I wished they had said, live on.
For you parents who are reading this, use your words carefully with your children. Praise your children, fill them with love, nurture them, and help them to develop a high value of self-worth. I tried hard to do this with my kids but I am sure that there are some words that they remember that hurt, for which I am truly sorry.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but my bones will heal. Words can hurt forever.