The article: Sticks and Stones: The Myth That Words Will Never Hurt You
"Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones
But Words Will Never Hurt Me."
Yeah right-o, brave and unaffected, oh - unemotional warrior of the human species...
You're DARN RIGHT words hurt! Well, at least until you become unattached to what was said - which takes some personal self skill-building, to say the least.
The idiom is designed to convey: an opinion that people cannot hurt you with bad things they say or write about you - that you (or the receiver of the words) is not going to be affected by mere words.
Cases where this idiom falls distinctly flat are:
- * Damage of words in the press to celebrities/public personas, even if the words about the celebrity turn out to be outright lies.
- * Where anyone emotionally sensitive is concerned ie: children (who may not be at an advanced level of being able to think and respond critically with reasoned thinking and responses. Children may internalize what they hear in a self-damaging way).
- * Where anyone emotionally unstable is concerned ie: persons afflicted with mental illness or even anyone under mental duress whereby the stress is undermining reasoned thinking. Those experiencing mental illnes, mental instability, high levels of stress may also internalize and feel exceptionally vulnerable to derogatory words, remarks, articles, etc.
- * Where oppressed and minority individuals/groups are concerned ie: these individuals or groups have already been harmed or at least consider themselves (sometimes) under attack, and so might be internalizing derogatory remarks, words, media reports, etc. ++There are more, but these are the most common.
The point is...the human species has a great capacity for using words and also the ability to use words in a well-reasoned, respectful way. In almost every case of bullying or verbal attack, there IS a better, more effective way to put words and concepts across than with harsh statements, bullyish means.
For almost every statement of, "He/She should have been able to tell I was joking" and "She/He just took what I said all wrong - I was just being a little sarcastic," that are used as a cover when trying to joke or explain a way out of being blamed for bullying, there are additional "blames" upon the receiver of the verbal abuse in question.
People who use words harshly and who bully with words are rarely able to come up with a very good reason for doing so and, therefore, continue to blame the already-abused person.
Lack of accountability - or "mock accountability" (jokingly saying "sorry" when it is apparent that "sorry" is not a heartfelt response) is so prevalent in many cultures of supposedly "advanced" nations that we are basically accustomed to sarcasm, "double-talk," "slights," and all manner of harmful use of words.
More true than "Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us," is the idiom, "Words Can CUT LIKE A KNIFE," and, in a more positive way, "A Kind Word Never Goes Unrewarded."
Just blurbing here...and hope that sometime, somewhere, if someone remembers this post and they're about to let loose with a sarcasm or hurtful words in a state of emotional thinking, they'll simply go with, perhaps, the safest alternative: "If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Anything At All."