Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” ~~Old Adage
There’s no wisdom like playground wisdom. We learn about interacting with others on the playground. All the rules of life, written and unwritten, are tested there. Children demonstrate the inner workings of human personality in the ways they play, especially when relatively unsupervised by adults.
On the playground, you find the future Leaders. They’re the ones who inform the others of the rules of the game. They usually look out for the smaller children, either to send them away from a game that isn’t appropriate for them, or to include them to the best of their abilities. Kids look up to the Little Leaders…follow their instructions, ask their advice.
You’ll also find the Dreamers on the playground…or, more likely, around the fringes of the playground. The Little Dreamers usually play imaginative games of make-believe, create forts and cottages and kingdoms out of found objects or plant life. “Pretend” is the Little Dreamer’s favorite word. They take others to Mars, to the Wild West, or to a fairytale kingdom, imagining aliens and outlaws and dragons, friends and foes. Kids love to imagine other worlds with the Little Dreamers.
On the playground is also where you’ll find the Athletes. These are the children who love sports of all sorts. Running, jumping, throwing,… getting physical suits them fine. The Little Athletes aren’t into fitness as much as they’re into the joy of being physically active for FUN.
And then there are the bullies. Bullies play through intimidation and fear. Bullies want what they want, when they want it, and aren’t afraid to hurt someone to get it. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was invented as a protective mantra for the targets of bullies on the playground.
But the adage isn’t true. Words do hurt. Sometimes, words hurt more than sticks and stones. And the scars often last longer. The psychological effects of bullying often last a lifetime.
Bullying is often seen as a normal part of childhood. Some insist that bullying “toughens you up,” and that the targets of bullying are “weak” or “asking for it.” This attitude creates a climate of tolerance for emotional and psychological violence that permeates all areas of life.
But at what cost? Any threat to one’s sense of safety triggers the instinctual “fight-or-flight” response. Those who tolerate or dismiss bullying as normal or trivial deny the nature of the survival instinct. Apparently, the only acceptable response is “Fight.” Those who do not fight are seen as weak or cowardly.
At the same time, the moral values of gentleness, kindness, humility, and compassion are seen as Good, while violence, selfishness, callousness, and greed are seen as Evil. In the battle of Good vs Evil, humans are hypocrites. We say we believe in Good, that we want to be Good…but the Evil that we do betrays us.
From the hostile attitude we use with the waitress who brought us an overcooked meal, to the insults we hurl at the other driver on the road, to the statements that begin with “those people have no regard for human life…”…we demonstrate the same violence toward others that we would not tolerate being directed at us. We substitute words for the sticks and stones we want to throw…and excuse it because we’re “only human.”
Here’s a universal adage to consider the next time you want to give someone a piece of your mind:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.