Words Can Never Hurt Me and Other Lies From My Mother

Meditations in Motion
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Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.

My mom taught me that well-known phrase early in my childhood. I tended to be an overly-sensitive and dramatic little girl.

Once I came home from school in tears. “A mean boy on the bus is calling me names,” I wailed to my mother.

What name did he call you?” my mother asked. “He called me Burgard kid,” I replied.

I should explain that “Burgard” was the name of the elementary school I attended. The boy in question attended a different school.

He was probably trying to get your attention. He doesn’t know your name. Perhaps he likes you,” my mother suggested.

He doesn’t like me. Boys are mean!” Mom just shook her head.

Mother’s wisdom aside, words most certainly can hurt, especially if they are used to criticize.

Our first response to criticism is often to become defensive. We build a case of denials, rationalizing grounds for deflecting the accusals and defending ourselves against further hurt.

The problem with an immediate reaction of defensiveness, though, is that it prevents the possibility of growth from legitimate, maybe even gentle, helpful criticism.

The best response to criticism is thoughtful consideration.

If, after honest reflection, you determine the unfavorable appraisal is at least partially accurate, use it as inspiration for growth. No one is perfect; even, difficult as it is for me to confess, me.

It isn’t easy admitting we need “fixing” but making needed corrections to become a better person is worth the momentary embarrassment we may feel when our faults are pointed out.

And when the criticism leveled against us is intended to hurt? The Bible tells us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you(Matthew 5:44)

Yes, even when the criticism aimed at us is hostile and cruel, defensiveness is still not a feasible option.

Others have diverse motivations to spew destructive criticisms our way, including jealousy, insecurity, self-righteousness, anger, revenge, and even ignorance. Our response should always be the same: grace.

Yes, they don’t deserve it, but neither do we and yet, grace is ours, freely and abundantly given without asking.

Giving this unmerited grace blesses two people: us and the offender. Rather than nurturing hurt, we are unbound by spite or offense. We are free to bring understanding and tolerance into another person’s life.

Is this easy? Nope. Not at all. Our default reaction is umbrage and lots of it. But this is a chance to model Love, to grow emotionally, to escape from the bondage of victimhood.

Maybe that’s what Mom was trying to teach me all those years ago when the boy on the bus hurled the vile epithet “Burgard kid” my way.

By not forgiving, I missed the perfect opportunity to dispense grace to that obviously troubled young man.

Until now.


Please click on the following link to read more funny or inspirational one-liners. One-Liner Wednesday.

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Meditations in Motion









  1. What a lovely post. A good friend said something mean to me last year and I recoiled in hurt and disbelief. She wrote a half ass apology later via text and I decided to not let it escalate, to use humor and learn from what happened. I decided like you wrote — to consider it, grow from it and extend grace. I wanted revenge and I could have easily written her off and been pissed off as hell, but I chose to take a different way… and guess what, I felt good.

    It wasn’t always so and I remember being a school girl too and boys making fun of my last name! It hurt but I was way too sensitive.

    I’m glad I’ve grown up…some! 😂
    Great post! You are always full of wisdom and wonderful life observations.

    Susan Grace

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used this list from Gretchen Fleming to move on from a very hurtful exchange from my husband’s step-mother (a woman who was a mother-figure to me for almost 45 years) a year ago! It was helpful.
      “I may be your enemy but that doesn’t make you MY enemy.
      You may not be able to receive my love but I can love you anyway, from a distance.
      You may only have hostility toward me but I can still be kind to you.
      You may want to believe the worst about me but I can still give you my best.
      You may want my ruin but I can pray for your rescue.
      You may be antagonistic with me but I can still retain my peace.
      You may want to live in the past but I can move forward without you.”

      Thank you so much, Susan!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very good advice and yet so hard to apply! You say aptly that giving unmerited grace helps us to escape the bondage of victimhood. I really need to remember that for next time. TWO people will benefit from grace, not just the offender.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In principle you’re absolutely right. In practice…. we are prone to react first and reflect later, if ever if the criticism was merited or not. It would take a lot of time to recondition our thinking. But it would be a worthwhile effort. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s good advice to help people not take everything they hear to heart, but words definitely can be hurtful. The hard thing to learn is to hear things calmly and make a genuine assessment if whatever was said is true and should be taken as a growth opportunity, and when someone is just being mean. Reacting gracefully and taking that initial step back from a fray is a hard to learn to do, but worth it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad you’ve uncovered it now, the future will be peacefilled. My son and daughter both showed me the way when they experienced school bullying, Emma forgave her bully and encouraged me to forgive & move on as I’ve shared in my blog and my son summed it up well and helped shape my awareness when he said he was “grateful for it (the bullying) all.” Insightful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I heard that phrase time and time again growing up, too, Laurie. But mean words sting and last much longer than bruises from sticks and stones. It’s difficult to make a gracefilled comeback when we’re attacked, but Jesus certainly tells us we must. Great reflection here, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kindness – and, if not kindness, indifference – can be the best response to bullies (if, in fact, that boy was one). They look for to hurt others so they can feel powerful. If they don’t get the reaction they are looking for, you’ve taken away their power.

    The ability to measure our response (now that we are older and, hopefully, we no longer have to deal with bullies) is key to successful relationships. Often my first response to criticism is defensiveness (I’m human, afterall), but if I can force myself to take a deep breath and actually consider the other person’s words, they are often more than a little right.

    Your mom was very wise!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you, Janis. The best response to a bully is kindness, even though that may be difficult at the time. The boy in muy story actually was not a bully. I was just being too sensitive.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I was definitely in the soup line when you finished. Sorry I missed you when there was time to talk. Was one of your friends a youngish blonde in pink compression socks? Somebody greeted me by name and I didn’t know who it was. Another blogger maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your mom dispensed wisdom and “momisms” just like my mom did Laurie. My mom’s favorite was “if everyone jumps off the bridge, do you have to follow?” But she also gave advice when asked, even though I did not always agree – bullying was something she didn’t like and when my next-door neighbor and best friend, Linda Crosby, teased me and took my tricycle or toys and left me standing there with none, or her tiny tricycle (I had a bigger one as I was tall), my parents told timid little me that they’d give me a dime for every time I beat up or told Linda Crosby off. Next time we had a “play date” she took something of mine and I beat her up (not seriously mind you) and skipped into the house crying out “I beat up Linda Crosby – can I have my dime now?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still remember a lot of things my mom said and I bet you do too, Linda. My mom used that “bridge” one on me too. I remember I didn’t understand it at first; she had to explain it to me.

      I bet Linda Crosby never messed with you again! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I do remember them Laurie – they all stuck with me through the years. The “bridge” one had several variations as I recall. But, we must have heeded our respective mom’s sayings and warnings, as I think we both turned out okay. You are right, Linda Crosby never messed with me again. My parents were so angry with me for being a pushover and they weren’t too happy I asked for my dime at the top of my lungs either!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I feel the same Laurie – we rebelled about some things and thought Mom did not understand – now we realize that she understood perfectly. It is okay that we can still benefit from all the “momisms” and advice all these years later, even if we did not heed it then, and, as my mom would say to me “what I tell you goes in one ear and right out the other.” (Bet you heard that as well.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, younger people don’t understand that older people have been their age at one time. I still have trouble remembering that at times! I did hear that “momism” plenty of times!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I find words to be more hurtful and damaging than actions, I’d rather someone just punched me than bullied me with name calling, at least then I would be able to defend myself rather than having to put up with constant name calling. Thank you for joining in with #PoCoLo and hope to see you back later this week

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I have long forgotten any bumps or scratches I had when I was a little girl, but I still remember mean words all these years later. Thanks for the opportunity to share!


  11. It’s funny how much smarter our mothers get as we get older. I guess we have all been the victim of mean words at some time or another. I hope I’ve grown in how I respond to them and in my willingness to forgive and pray for the perpetrator. But it’s not always easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yes, Donna. I can’t believe how much smarter my mother gets as I get older. It is not always easy to forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it, but it is what we are called to do.


    • Thank you, Barbara. It’s tough to admit we may need to make a change, especially if the words were delivered in a hurtful way, but it’s really the best thing to do. God gives all of us His grace extravagantly. We must do the same.


  12. Words do hurt, and their sting can last for years if we don’t process them. My first reaction is to recoil and want to spring back. But now two of us are defensive and neither of us is listening. It is amazing that Jesus was attacked over and over again with words, but never sat and defended himself or his father, or anything else. I try to think of him sometimes when criticized. That and remember who is saying the words. Because the words being said are often saying more about the critical person, than about me.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Beautifully said, Laurie. I find that there’s nothing like the DELAYED RESPONSE to facilitate more grace than is found in my AUTOMATIC REACTION. I really have to practice taking the space and time, because I tend toward The Reactive… but I’m always, always grateful for it (when i DO!). Recently, I’ve had a huge opportunity to practice this–and what I’m finding is that I don’t think I need to respond to the person at all. As much as her words have pained me, I’ve been able to see that they’re coming from the speaker’s fear. And with some grace, I can simply hold her in prayer–versus shoving her fears in her face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we all tend toward the reactive. It is only through practice that we can get to delayed response. It is always better when we do, but it only comes with age. I have the same response as you do when I can remind myself to stop and think. I can’t always remind myself, but I am working on it! 🙂


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