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Following an incident of name-calling, or verbal bullying, have you ever been told, or said to someone, sticks and stones...

Following an incident of name-calling, or verbal bullying, have you ever been told, or said to someone, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt? This saying can be traced back to writings as early as 1830. What was the initial meaning, you might ask?

"Sticks and Stones" is an English-language children's rhyme. The rhyme is intended to be used as a defense against name-calling and verbal bullying. Meant to increase resiliency, avoid physical retaliation and to help victims remain calm.

Although this saying, or idiom is designed to bring one comfort and strength, it could not be more false and further from the truth. Yes, sticks and stones hurt, but those wounds will heal with time, however, the scars inflicted by words, may never heal. Like dropping a stone into water, the ripple effects can be felt long after the stone has sunk to the bottom and is forgotten.

At a young age, I was told by a very close family member, “shut-up kid”. I never realized just how much that hurt until years later as an adult. I realized that I do just that, I “shut up” and hold many emotions in, which continue to haunt and hurt me rather than letting them out.

“There was a time where words were used for art and poetry. They were an attempt to describe the beauty of the world and one another and put it on paper. Now words are filled with hate and used as killers instead of creators. Moments may fade, but words can last forever,” (Echols, 2018). We have become careless with our words, even though they have the ability to make or break one's experiences or relationships with others.

We are currently still living in the time of COVID and being at home with others sometimes, up to 24 hours per day seven days a week. It is so easy to become upset and respond quickly and not realize how our words will sound, or worse, how they will hurt.

I saw a great sign the other day, it read, “Just one kind word, can warm three winter months.” Remember to stop, breathe, notice what’s happening and think about our word choice and be sure to say it with kindness.

By: David R. Julian, MSW, LCSW, DRCC


Why Sticks and Stones is the most Idiotic Idiom We Have

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Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Hate speech. In dictionary. Retrieved March 27, 2020, from

Sticks and Stones

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Why Sticks and Stones get a bad Rap

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