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A few days ago, two friends and I were enjoying a light hearted conversation, laughing and gabbing about nothing in particular.  My ears perked up when I heard one of these women, describe herself as “annoying”.  I have heard her use the word to describe herself on several other occasions and each time, it felt raw and untrue.  On those earlier occasions, I may have let it slide or made a brief comment about the inappropriate label she was assigning to herself.  This time however, I asked her to please stop using the word to describe herself. The word doesn’t fit my image of her and if someone else thinks it does, she probably would benefit from limiting her time with them. I suggested that she change the word to something with a positive connotation. Something like fun, effervescent, and spunky.  Now those are characteristics that fit her personality. They’re positive, uplifting and convey a sense of who she truly is.

As we continued talking, the other woman in our trio gave an example of a time when she took a negative and turned it into a positive. She described an incident that occurred when she was about eight years old. Her dad was driving their car and her uncle was a passenger in the front.  She was in the back seat and apparently was thought to be asleep.  Although she doesn’t remember much of the conversation between the two men, she vividly recalls overhearing her uncle, her favorite uncle, say that she was a pain-in-the-ass.  Well, needless to say, she felt devastated and wondered how he could possibly think this of her.  After not much additional thought, she remembers saying to herself, well, if I’m a pain in the ass, I’m going to be a fun pain in the ass. Bam! With that decision made, she went on with the rest of her day and the rest of her life without dragging the negative comment and associated belief along with her. And, I am happy to say, she  continues to be a fun-loving person. 

Most of us are able to recall a similar event from our past and if you do while reading this, you know the feeling, the sting that negative words can hold, particularly when spoken by someone we hold in high regard.  During first grade, I remember being called a “butt-in-ski” by my first grade teacher. Apparently I “butted in” to ask a question while she was talking to another student. I recall being totally embarrassed and the memory lingered with me long after the event. 

Do you remember hearing or maybe even chanting the rhyme, Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me?  It was, and continues to be, a lie, or an “untruth” as lies are often called today.  Making faces and calling people names often results in hurt feelings and ruined relationships.  Sometimes it’s due to miscommunication but whatever the intent, we need to take ownership for our part in the holding onto, changing or letting go of these words. On the flip side, It would also be wise to choose our words carefully and to understand they hold the power to hurt or heal. 

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Comment by Arlene Rattan on December 14, 2014 at 7:59pm
Thanks Clark. Yes, it's been a while since I last heard the phrase as well. I'm guessing many <30 have never heard it.
Comment by A. Clark Gaither on December 14, 2014 at 6:43pm

I enjoyed reading this Arlene. You know, I was telling someone just the other day that I hardly ever hear "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me" anymore. It seems that most people want other people to be responsible for their feelings nowadays. Too many individuals are running around being offended by just about everything they don't like these days.

Comment by Arlene Rattan on December 14, 2014 at 4:35pm

Thanks Marcy. Yes, spunk is a great word to describe her personality. I think this is a skill that children can be taught...particularly when we know how they might be interpreting events. 

Comment by Marcy Travis on December 14, 2014 at 9:14am

So true Arlene! Thank you for sharing. I love that your friend at 8 years old decided to turn things around for herself! What spunk!

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