Irving, Texas

Sticks and Stones and Words

This is Canon Victoria’s letter in our weekly Parish News email.  To sign up for our newsletter, please visit: Constant Contact. To see the full weekly Parish News email from Jan 27th, please visit:


My mother had a series of saying when I was a child, most of which I have found apt and wise, with one exception.  “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you.”  I know what she meant to mean.  She meant to say, “Let go of the mean words of other children called out as bullying and don’t let them affect you.”  In a similar way, I asked my children, “Who gave them power over you?” Words can wound decades after the cut from the lip is forgotten.  It is people closest too us whose words can wound us worse.  At the end of her life, when she was not sure of our names, my mother remembered taunts said to her as a child.

Observant Jewish parents to this day have the Sabbath custom of blessing their children.  I do not directly observe that custom:  but because of it, I try and praise my children when they do something good unasked.  Think about how often in business or in our families, the opening line, “I need to talk to you,” raises anxiety. It is because we expect criticism, not positive feedback.

St. Paul says to his church members in Philippi, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable…think on these things.  That is actually harder than it sounds.  We often find it easier to see what is wrong, than what is right.  Taking time to name the good in a person can be the word that God uses to nudge him or others toward goodness.  Equally, a diet of negative words can limit or destroy the future of one who hears them.  Jesus says that we will have to account for every idle word we speak before the Throne of God. (Matthew 12:36) I had to read that about five times before I noticed the warning.   I am more mindful since of what I say, and how I say it.

–Victoria Heard

One Comment

  1. Jacqueline R. Maki

    I’m learning that the world doesn’t always need to know what I’m thinking, especially those thoughts of mine more focused on the negative, when I am still healing from perceived hurt or wrong-doing. And I am also learning that a kind word or two at the right time can sometimes be just what another person needs to get through his or her day/night, even if that person never mentions the impact to us. And finally, I’m learning that the unkind or evil things that others may occasionally say to me or to those whom I love do not need to define us. Life is too short to let the verbal sticks and stones of others paint our skies for even a few moments, let alone for hours and days. Someone told me last week that it took her more than three days to recover from comments her supervisor made to her one Friday morning — even though she agreed with the content, she was wounded by the hurtful delivery of the message. And when the wounded one came into work that following Monday morning, she was still wondering how in the world she would work through the next encounter with that supervisor; and then three days after that, she was still tearful as she related the events and emotions to me. The saddest part of all, perhaps, is that that supervisor still has no clue about the emotional wounds she delivered to her employee. Note to self: How many “sticks and stones” messages have I delivered to others and remained clueless of the harm I have done to their spirits? A former teacher of mine once explained that “Thou shalt not kill” applies not only to causing another’s physical death, but also to the myriad tiny psychological encounters through which we slowly and cumulatively — although sometimes unknowingly — kill someone else’s spirit. Thank you, Victoria, for reminding us to take serious care in what we say and how we say it.

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