Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

Probably at some point in our life we’ve heard these words.  We are led to believe that words used against us by another cannot hurt us, or at least not harm us physically.

Unfortunately, during the course of our lives many have found this saying to be untrue.  Words have been used against us, and even though they did not break our bones, they did indeed hurt.

If you ask someone who has been abused by an intimate partner, chances are they would say the physical abuse, although horrible and painful, was not as bad as the verbal/emotional abuse.  How could this be?  What these women say is that wounds will heal, bones will mend, scars will fade.  But the words used against them, the things the abuser said, replay in their mind, over and over, like an unending record.

In the women’s spiritual circle, we have discussed the power of words.  These women know too well the power of words, especially the power of the words used by their abuser.  I asked the women to share some of the words that have been used in hurtful ways against them.  Words like hate, spiteful, hypocrite, ugly, stupid, lazy and liar were listed, and it was clear there were particular incidents brought to mind in which these words were used.

These words and the pain they caused may never be erased from the minds and memories of these women.  Thankfully these women are also adding new words to their vocabulary, words like love, strong, and free.  Slowly these women can add new words to describe who they are, to allow themselves to see they are not solely defined by the hurtful words of an abuser.

What words will we use, or allow others to use, to describe who we are today?