Keep Smiling with Rosie Preston: The truth about sticks and stones

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By Rosie Preston

Many of you have heard the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I’m sure you’ve learned that both parts of the expression are true.

Our bones can be broken in many ways, and if we’re lucky, they may heal because of modern medicine. Many men, women and children who have lost a limb while fighting in a war or due to accidents or diseases have found comfort in their lives thanks to the many scientist and doctors whose continued efforts to study have changed thousands of lives, which would have been called miracles several years ago. Such people have lived more normal lives than they could have ever imagined. These discoveries were never heard of when I was growing up. 

Words, however, whether spoken too quickly or with anger or jokingly, may leave a scar that never leaves your heart. It’s happened to me and I know it’s happened to you. We’re human, and for the most part, we’ve all had our feelings hurt. Relationships between friends or family or co-workers have been damaged or destroyed, never to be the same again. 

I once had a person say to me after she had broken up her relationship with my friend, “I guess you never knew that none of his family ever liked you.”

These words could have hurt me had I cared or been close to her, but this one time, I was quick enough to say, “I’m blessed to have many friends, and that doesn’t hurt me.” Little did she know it surprised me more than anything else, because those folks had invited me to many family gatherings, and I liked them.

Lessons were learned as a result of the words she spoke to me. I tried to put a wall around my heart, thinking it would not happen again. I also told myself I would never treat other people that way. And, my prior trust in people had been damaged. I’d like to say that was the only time it happened, but unfortunately it has happened many times in my life. 

Years have gone by since that episode, and it’s embarrassing to say that I’m a slow learner. It is easy to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, yet too many times I’ve found pain from the words spoken to me. Most of the time, such words were said when a person was not thinking about the consequences. I wish I had thought to say, “Ouch, that hurts! Let me think about my answer, and I’ll get back to you eventually!”

If you have experienced these different situations happening to you, then you may often wonder, “What happened?” You find that you’ve lost or left a job because of words. You don’t visit or speak to family members anymore, and sadly, you’ve lost friends that you thought would be there forever.

So, with words of wisdom, I’d like to know how you handle, or handled, situations like this. As for myself, sometimes it’s taken me years to process what happened, especially when essential jobs, family or friends have hurt me, or I’ve hurt them. And although bones may have not been broken, words better left unspoken have broken up marriages and lifelong friendships and caused the loss of jobs. 

If I could offer any words of wisdom, it would be to share these words with those I love: “I’m going to pick myself up and push forward with my life. I believe my faith will lift me above the sadness, pain and heartache of those losses experienced in the past. I will hold onto what has been good and what will be great as I have lost and learned.” Of course, this is easier said than done. And it is true that we only have to answer for our own actions, not for someone else’s words or actions.

The Serenity Prayer contains many vital words that should be memorized: “Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

These words will set you free.

Keep smiling, Rosie

Please send me a poem or short story at rosie.preston@yahoo.com. I would love to publish it!

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