“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but…”
Remember that saying? We chanted it on the school playground trying to grow thick skin. Or to bluff that our skin was so tough mere words couldn’t hurt us. But the truth is, words can hurt. They can cut to straight to the heart and for some, those wounds never heal. But some wounds cut deeper than others.
First, with the rise of social media we are opening the gates for opinions to come right in. Without being able to control the quantity. In the past, it used to be only famous people that received insults and vitriol on a grand scale. Perhaps, all the avenues allowed for a growing audience will cause us to have some sympathy. So far, the opposite has been true. If you are brave enough to put yourself out there then you have to expect negative feedback. Not just a little, but a lot. There are those “out there” who thrive on taking others down.
While most people can shrug off a comment or two from strangers, it may prove more difficult from an onslaught. One arrow may miss the target but 20 arrows? If 20 arrows are coming your way expect some damage. The same principle holds true with negative feedback. I have read articles and watched interviews and typically the answer to the question “how do you handle the critics?” boils down to this: I don’t read them. Few people can handle an incoming round of negativity aimed at their essence. The quantity definitely can leave some piercing wounds.
But a second kind of deep cut comes from those with most access to our hearts. This is the quality factor. Named after the quality of the relationship not the hurt. The people we love the most can cause the most damage. Sometimes they don’t mean to. Sometimes they do. When we open our hearts to let people in we can’t control what they are going to do while there.
Hurt can come from humor because humor tends to come at someone’s expense. While we attempt to hide behind the “just joking” disclaimer, it doesn’t take away the sharpness of the arrow. It still cuts. It still wounds. It may even hurt worse because now instead of licking our wounds we need to laugh it off. Humor has truth in it though. Some just get good at laughing in spite of the pain.
The thing to remember is we all come from different places which gives us all different resiliency abilities. We can’t judge how another person is going to react based on our own experience or expectation. That’s why communication is important. Be willing to apologize when necessary. Be able to forgive if it is warranted.
In any relationship, word-arrows are going to fly. Hopefully, not a quiver-ful at once. That’s a whole other discussion. But none of us are perfect. Cuts, wounds, and scars to the heart are inevitable. In order to love, we have to open the heart up and when we do that, some hurt is going to come in.
So, while we bluff and say “…but words will never hurt” that is not entirely true. They most certainly can.