Sticks and Stones

How many times have you said something stupid? Something small that didn’t seem like much during the course of a conversation, but later  it dawns on you that feelings might have been hurt. Even though you’re usually pretty thoughtful, for whatever reason, you forgot the filter and you’re left wondering if the other person or people noticed. It was such a fleeting moment that it doesn’t seem worth going out of the way for a whole apology, but yet, you play the words over in your mind with a thousand variations of things you could have said instead. Should have said.

And on the other side, have you ever been deeply hurt, saddened or offended by words that have thoughtlessly tumbled out of someone else’s mouth? In context, it probably didn’t seem all that important, and you didn’t want to look silly for making a big deal about nothing. And then later, alone with your thoughts again, you find yourself wondering if it was a fluke faux pas or a true opinion coming through behind the wit.

If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself in both situations at various times in your life. Recently, I’ve been trying to make an effort to avoid the first scenario and not be the one who says hurtful or mean things, even in jest. And honestly? I haven’t been doing the greatest job. I have my excuses, but really, it doesn’t matter what they are. Because no matter what’s going on with me, it’s no good reason to put down or lash out at someone else, no matter what kind of laughs I might get at the time.

But the inspiration for this post, which admittedly has held up quite the mirror–you have no idea–is actually the second scenario. I don’t know if I’ve become more sensitive in my old age, or if people are really trying to use their words to cut me that deeply.

I’ve been having a hard time with words lately, especially because the words that hurt have been coming from people who are supposed to look out for me, to respect me and support me. Close people. Like family, even.

There’s a lot of people saying how we tend to treat our parents, kids, siblings and spouses worse than we’d treat a stranger on the street. Even in the best families, I’ve seen this to hold true in certain moments of weakness. I’ve been lucky, because my family is beautiful and supportive, lively and fun to be around. I wouldn’t trade a single one of them. There are certain words, though, that have made me feel disrespected, isolated or worthless.

Please, (Mom) don’t misunderstand. Usually it’s just a few words or way of steering conversation that probably doesn’t even register to the speaker as potentially hurtful or dismissive.

I know that I have some strong beliefs and certain ways of doing things in my life that don’t always jive with what others think or do. But just because I do something differently doesn’t make what I do or say about it an automatic attack on how you live your own life. And maybe I don’t always get that part across as clearly as I intend, but I really do try not to be all “in your face” about that type of stuff.

Example: I’m a strong advocate for human milk for human babies. There’s really no argument that breastmilk is what our species was born to consume in early life. If you make the conscious, educated decision to feed your baby differently, that’s your choice to make. But it is obvious to me that there is a lot of misinformation out there along with a huge lack of support for mothers who truly want to breastfeed. Which is why so many try and fail and feel so much guilt as a result. So I talk about my experience, I seek out accurate information to share, and I’m involved in trying to give the kind of advice and support that I received during a very vulnerable and lonely time in my mothering journey.

People have throw around the N-word in reference to many different groups or individuals over the years, But seriously? A group of women helping each other nurse and mother their children is about as far from a gang of genocidal Germans as you can get. And it really hurts when someone close to me goes there, so to speak. Because I feel like I’m participating in something good for mothers and babies, but when you say “Nazi,” I get the sense you might disagree with that assessment.

I’m not going to share each hurtful word that’s ever had an impact on me here on this very public blog. Most of it doesn’t really matter, anyway. And the stuff that does, well, I might need to have an old-fashioned conversation about my feelings or something with the people involved. I really just wanted to write about how much words can and do matter. The old adage about sticks and stones and words not hurting is kind of bull. Words can sometimes hurt worse. So before you speak, just take a quick second to consider the words, the phrasing, the inflection before it’s too late to change them. Because someone might not hear exactly what you meant to communicate. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Express love. Respect. Apologize. Rephrase. And that goes double for me.

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