Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
We’ve all heard this expression as kids – and maybe we even used it growing up as a means to deflect hurtful words spoken to us or about us. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, those words can cut deeper than we think. Words do hurt. And sometimes more than sticks and stones.
Over the last week I’ve been reeling over a painful situation where hurtful and untrue things are being said about me to other people, where I’m being judged based on slanderous statements.
It’s wrong. It’s excruciatingly painful. It’s frustrating.
Let me pause here to emphasize that it doesn’t matter who said them or even what was said. My point in sharing this experience is the words we say to ourselves and others do matter and once spoken, we can’t take them back. Whatever our intentions or motives are for sharing them, once they’re out, they’re out.
There’s an old folktale that tells of a man who went through a small community slandering a shop owner. One day, feeling suddenly remorseful, he begged the shop owner for forgiveness and offered to undergo any form of penance to make amends. The shop owner told him to take a feather pillow from his home, cut it open, and set the feathers to the wind.
The man did as he was told and returned the next day asking the shop owner, “Am I now forgiven?”
“Almost,” the shop owner replied, “but first you must perform one last task – go and gather all the feathers.”
“But that’s impossible!” the man protested, “for the wind has scattered them.”
“Precisely,” said the shop owner.
We often don’t see the negative results of our language choices manifested in such overt, physical ways as the folktale and so it’s challenging to be aware of the consequences – unless, of course, we’ve been in a situation where we’ve been bullied, verbally assaulted, slandered or degradingly criticized. While we can all agree that words are powerful, it’s not until we’ve been in a painful situation where words have hurt us, that we can fully grasp just how powerful words are.
While I’m still processing the hurt, I recognize that part of moving past this means I need to let go of what others may or may not think of me. Rather than trying to “prove” or “disprove” anything, what is required is that I continue to live my life with an open heart and mind – that I choose to use my words, to myself and others, as a means to heal, uplift, motivate and inspire. Bottom line: I can only do my side of the street and if I live with love in my heart and from my lips, compassion, understanding, kindness and goodwill will ultimately circle back to me.
This week I invite you to join me in becoming the master of your mouth, what goes in and what comes out.
For the next 7 days, challenge yourself to use your words to heal, uplift, inspire and motivate. Rather than complaining or gossiping, how can you appreciate, enliven and love others? Rather than listen to slander or gossip, how can you shift the conversation toward what is right, toward what you love? How can you use social media as a tool to uplift and inspire rather than to compare and criticize?
It’s not easy to be super mindful and hyper vigilant of our words, but by watching our words, we create an opportunity for mindfulness that allows us to fully step into being a powerful force for good.
Love burns karma so spread the love throughout your life and invite everyone you know to join.
Together we can start a revolution where words can heal and empower and stick and stones don’t matter.