IWSG 60: Sticks + Stones


This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.



Lee Lowery | Juneta Key | Yvonne Ventresca | T. Powell Coltrin

“Sticks and stones break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

From: The Christian Recorder of March 1862 (according to wiki)

OPTIONAL Question:

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I hate to admit this but I’ve never been perfect.

*snort* I KNOW! Shocker.

Sometimes I made others angry. Some of their words left scars. Deep scars I carried with me for years. Logically, the source was angry, and I knew it. I understood it. But I also believed what they said. Their words were vicious and cruel. I still think they meant them.

I’d get sad. It haunted me. Time doesn’t heal everything. Sometimes it makes it worse. I’d hear those words over and over again.

It took time, but I learned from this.

To prevent harm:

I understand feeling anger and being cruel are two different things. When I’m angry—still not perfect—I watch my mouth.

I found a solution (for me at any rate).

And to protect myself:

I remember that I’m the one that gives those words power over me. To take the power away, I must not believe them. Sure, everyone has a right to an opinion.

It doesn’t mean it’s true—period. Or that everyone agrees with them. Or that I should accept their opinion as a fact.

I refuse. I’m in control.

With that simple opinion—my opinion which is just as valid as theirs—I take the power of hurtful, thoughtless words and make them disappear.

Behind our good manners and overall respect for others, we don’t know what we do. We all have history. Nics and cuts from long ago. So does everyone else.

One small comment. A teasing joke meant as acceptance. A thought said aloud, normally harmless, can cut to the core. We can’t prevent it. We’re not psychics.

Know this. Feel this.

Be honest if you can and gentle if you can’t.

That said, each reader has a choice to suspend disbelief and dive into a story. I hope each time they do, they have a hell of a ride.

Words are power.

Please add your thoughts on how words work for you. 😉

74 responses to “IWSG 60: Sticks + Stones

  1. So true. Words have an incredible power to wound, and those scars often don’t heal. I’m sure I can remember every unkind, cruel, or embarrassing thing that was ever said to me. Compliments? Not so much.

  2. Anger is a tough emotion to battle. Realizing we all make mistakes though is huge. I know I try to teach my kids about frustration and how sometimes it slips out. I try to teach them to discover what’s behind it. I certainly have made my own mistakes. Happy IWSG Anna.

  3. Well said. Things said in anger aren’t facts but they can be taken to heart as if they were and we have to watch what we say. And what we hear.

  4. Remembering that our opinions/thoughts/feelings etc are just as valid as the other person’s is one of those things I always have to remind myself about. For some reason, I tend to believe they’re right, and I’m wrong. But I’m working on it!

  5. Your strategy is perfect. Take that power away by not believing in them. I guess we all have had nasty things said to us about us. Some I still remember.

  6. Ronel Janse van Vuuren

    Truth! Great post 🙂

    Ronel visiting on #IWSG day: Help me, please!

  7. I love this –> “Be honest if you can and gentle if you can’t.” Taking control of your reaction to other people’s words is a great approach – it’s just their opinion after all and yours is just as important, even more so.

  8. This is the third IWSG post I’m reading today that mentions the old, childhood chant “sticks and stones…”
    Your post reminded me of the quote: “Remember, nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
    Happy IWSG Day.

  9. I like your point about not speaking in anger. I’ve learned to step back and put distance between me and the person. It helps me gain that person’s perspective and then approach them to talk about it once again. But it was difficult getting to this point in my life. It wasn’t easy learning.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  10. This is such an important meaning of words idea. I wish I’d thought of it. Bullying (and cyberbullying) are about as destructive as a person can get without physical violence.

  11. Wise words! it’s so hard to not take everything people say personally. This is something I try to remind my kids as well. Watch your words, and if someone is rude/mean they aren’t people you need to be around.

  12. Christine Rains

    Simply said and powerful. So many folks speak/type without thinking. Your strategy is marvelous. In everything I do, angry or not, I think before I speak. Words are potent things.

  13. Well said. As an adult, I’ve learned not to give other people’s negative words power over me. But it’s still tough.

  14. I’ve always been affected by other people’s comments, just assuming they must be right. Even to this day, I still search for hidden meanings in what people say to me, looking for insults or putdowns I might have missed.

  15. Great post and a wonderful approach to life and writing. I need to take lessons from you.

  16. I still remember many angry words thrown at me and they do have power. I like your approach – refusing them that power is so smart! Kindness really is key!

  17. I remember my mother telling me, when I was young, that no one was ever going to like me because I was too mean with my words…

  18. Suzanne Furness

    Words are incredibly powerful and it’s true, we seem to remember and believe the bad or hurtful ones far more and for longer. A thoughtful post. Happy IWSG day.

  19. Jennifer Lee Hawes

    I agree with you. We don’t have to believe what people say about us! Words are extremely powerful or why would we write or read? Thanks for sharing your honesty!

  20. None of us are perfect. I try to watch my words, especially negative ones. Even if what I’d say is true, sometimes it’s best to just let it go.

  21. Thanks for sharing, Anna. Words are powerful. Some we want to keep. Some we want to toss.

  22. Loni Townsend

    I get mean when I’m annoyed, though I’ve learned to rein it in this past decade or so. I remember an instance when I went to a party my best friend was hosting. I didn’t know most of the people she’d invited, but there was one person who rubbed me the wrong way. My best friend said she could see it on my face and knew the instant I was about to turn mean. Thankfully, she was able to intervene because she knows me well enough. I’ve gotten a lot more conscious about my verbal words since I’ve had kids, though it still slips out from time to time. I’m a much kinder person in this digital age of texting and emails because I have the opportunity to think before I send.

    • One reason I like being online is the time to think. When I’m face to face, I usually ask quite a few questions or withdraw until I figure new people out.

  23. Words can hurt. I know that all too well.

  24. The danger of anger is it can tempt us to throw caution to the wind. It pays to always be mindful.

  25. Words can be so hurtful. I do believe people say things that they don’t mean when they’re angry, but it still is painful to the person receiving it. Your advice is good.

  26. Yes, not speaking when angry is a good one. I often count to ten or put myself in a timeout to digest what they have said and explore my own feelings about it. It really works.

  27. Angela Wooldridge

    Admitting you’re angry and taking time out is good advice – I can never verbalise things immediately. I find it much easier to write out how I feel, then I can edit it!

  28. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.
    You make good points about the power words have and the power we give them. If I have the option to choose and write my words, I do, and I try not to take others words to personally.

  29. Well expressed, Anna. Words can hurt as much as physical wounds (or even more as those wounds often heal). I used to write down every time a boyfriend verbally abused me. It’s hard to let it go. It’s hard to forget. I really like your theory of not believing it and therefore not being hurt!

  30. tyreanmartinson

    Admitting we aren’t perfect is tough, but it’s good. I think it helps us forgive others, and ourselves. Words are power. And, we can choose to listen or not.

  31. Words are powerful. And said in anger, without thought, can be damaging. Due to a family disease, I’ve learned just how badly words can hurt. I’ve also learned great restraint. Let go. Let God.

  32. Diane Burton

    BE HONEST IF YOU CAN AND GENTLE IF YOU CAN’T. I try. As I age, I’m getting better at it, esp. trying to be gentle. I also remember how much words hurt and try not to be guilty of hurting anyone.

  33. The really scary thing about words or people who use them is that from the same person you can receive words that kiss and hug and other words that bite and punch. That messes with people.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.
    Teresa a.k.a. Your Royal Smuggness 🙂

  34. I love this and so wise.

    That said, each reader has a choice to suspend disbelief and dive into a story. I hope each time they do, they have a hell of a ride.”

    Yeah, I wish telling myself that was my opinion worked better. I have never been to let my mouth run during anger, but I can be blunt and not realize how the bluntness sounded. I have corrected that some by working hard to think before I speak, but as you said I am not psychic. It does not happen as often from my end since I was older but I have been on the receiving end of cruelty/meanness than I ever experienced in my youngers as the fat kid. It has been eye open and I so get what you mean by the negative words having the power that might not ever heal. I have not found a way to combat it for myself internally yet, but I am working on it.

    Great post. Reading was my escape when I was younger, but I find it harder to relax, let go of the outer world and dive into like I did when I was younger, or heck even five years ago. Working on that too.

  35. Sorry for the typos. I reread it and did not see them. My brain corrected and blinded me until after I read after posting, grrrr.

  36. Victoria Marie Lees

    Words are definitely powerful, Anna. Thanks for reminding us that we do NOT need to believe them. But they can sting. The only people who can hurt me are the ones I love and believe in. Great post. All best to you.

  37. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    This is a take on words having power that I didn’t even think of, Anna; but as soon as I read your post, I thought “Duh!” Not because of your writing or ideas, but because I taught second and third graders for twenty-five years, and I had countless conversations on the power of words to hurt. Unfortunately, I think this is how many children learn the power of words. Learning to eliminate the sting of thoughtless or cruel words is a life skill that all of us need to learn.

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