“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Injuries can crush the body.
When someone strikes us, we hurt. The stronger our physical body, the less likely the damage, of course, but there is no question that sticks and stones can break our bones. And when we are injured, no one ever questions our need to take care of ourselves or to get the help we need. In fact, even strangers may jump up to assist the wounded with something that is obviously challenging (like opening a door for someone on crutches). Good people don’t treat an injured person like a weakling or misfit. They see our cast, bandage or sling and it’s obvious we have been hurt, but seldom will they label us a “reject,” “basket case,” “disturbed,” or “emo” like they do when words (or actions) inflict our heart and leaves us emotionally wounded.
Broken bones seldom become a person’s identity because we all know these injuries don’t last forever. Emotional wounds, however can easily become our identity because we are less apt to nurture them into healing properly and they become an intricate part of who we are.
It is foolish to keep doing things that intensify any injury (or sickness), whether it is physical or emotional. Yet most of us tend to care for a physical wound with love and attention while we dismiss emotional wounds as if they are shallow, immature or self-centered. Any wound that is well cared for will heal far better than one neglected or provoked, yet we easily accept our broken heart as our new identification.
When I broke my back in 1999 I had two small children at home and often felt it was “necessary” to do what the doctor had ordered me not to (like lifting my toddler), and when I did, it set back my healing. That’s the thing with a physical injury: it doesn’t go away, it “speaks up” and makes us deal with it no matter how hard we try to deny that it hurts.
Emotional wounds “speak up,” too.
My physical injury happened only six weeks after my daughter’s death. I had not healed from the emotional injury that grief had inflicted on my heart. For awhile I was pretty much bedridden and dependent on others. It was very difficult to be so needy, but the physical rest was part of my emotional healing. Instead of staying busy and avoiding the issues of my heart I was restricted with lots of time to think, cry and pray. My physical neediness also gave others reason to come and help me and that, too, brought healing to my heart.
Words can crush the spirit.
Emotional wounds aren’t always as intense as grief (just as physical wounds may be as simple as a paper cut) but they still need to be dealt with. Perhaps you have been called fat, ugly, stupid, slow, (or whatever!) and you feel embarrassed that such a simple thing hurt you.
Even small insults, like paper cuts, need to be washed, or they may get infected.
When someone hurts us as children we run to mom and cry on her shoulder. She hugs us and tells us the words are wrong and that she loves us just the way we are. And she means it, because we are a part of her. So we believe her words over the insults and our heart survives. Of course, if she does not have a healthy self-image, she may not be capable of helping us with our’s and if we have no one to help us wash the wound, we may accept those words as truth.
My mom helped me a lot in 1999 as did all of my (and my husband’s) family of origin as well as our family of faith. They made meals, did errands, changed diapers and, most of all, they cared. Even when their words were awkward, their actions helped me believe the Word of God, and that was the key to the survival of my crushed spirit.
If you feel wounded or crushed, I encourage you to take some time to heal. You are not alone. Let others help you and let their concern (even if it’s awkward) speak to your heart. Most of all, cast all your cares on the One who cares for you. Tell God how you feel and ask Him what He thinks of you. Don’t get distracted by the “necessary” until you have heard His answer and then believe His Word over anyone else’s because you were created in His image and there is no greater love than His.