Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never hurt me.
How many times do we hear this growing up? I don’t remember the first time I heard this simple rhyme, but I know that I have heard it hundreds of times since. And on one level, it is excellent common sense: don’t let someone get a rise out of you, don’t retaliate with violence, don’t freak out over an insult. But on another level, it is one of the most mind-bogglingly false adages out there. Because words hurt. Sometimes far more than a simple broken bone.
Yes, sticks and stones may break a person’s bones, but interestingly enough, the human body does not remember pain. The brain can remember having been in pain, and the emotions surrounding that pain, but the actual physical discomfort cannot be conjured up again without actually inflicting the same pain on the same nerves in the same way. So a broken bone will knit. A bruise will fade. A cut will heal. But anyone who has ever been badly wounded by a carefully chosen sentence or two will know that it is not so with words. The memory of an insult, criticism, or verbal abuse can sting or even damage long after the moment has passed. Often, it will even grow worse with time, burrowing deep into the psyche until nothing can dislodge it.