…may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.
This childish taunt, usually delivered in a sing-song voice, echoed across the playground. It was a defense when we were young and came home upset because some bully hurled demeaning invective our way.
We were told words could not hurt.
We were told a lie.
Yes, sticks and stones will break bones, cause bruising, bleeding, pain, severe internal injury, even death. The damage leaves scars the survivor carries, visible badges of courage fading as we age and grow, constant reminders someone was mean enough to hit.
Physical violence is awful. It should never be the answer. But, with modern medicine, and some luck, injuries typically heal. An arm might ache when a rain storm brews in the distance but the ache doesn’t prevent the arm from hugging a child or taking dinner from the oven.
However, the scars unseen, the ones carried inside, the ones that cause the most damage to the psyche…those scars were caused by words. Those scars are etched deeply into the soul, spelling out memories of cruelty delivered in the form of language. Words break hearts and minds.
And hearts and minds take much longer to heal than bones.
I’ve been thinking about bullies lately. I feel driven to do something that sheds light on the bullying epidemic.
Because bullying doesn’t just exist on the playgrounds. The industry I work in is littered with them. I’m sure other industries have their share. The dilemma, when considering a re-invention of career, becomes one of finding the industry with the smallest number of bullies. The dilemma, when considering bullying as an epidemic affecting children and adults alike, becomes one of wondering what one person can do to make it stop.