Last night while driving home from work I was thinking of an event that happened to me as a child that comes to mind every once in a while.  It was an example of just wrong that old children’s saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is.  Words can hurt.  Especially when they’re being said to a child.

I was in 4th grade, 10 years old, and was taken to the hallway to be reprimanded by my social studies teacher for something.  I don’t remember specifically what I was being reprimanded for, but I’m guessing I got done with my work quickly and was being disruptive bothering other students who were still finishing their work.  That’s what I was usually being reprimanded for.  Anyway, while out in the hallway this teacher ended the scolding with the statement “I don’t like you and I’m only nice to you because my wife told me I should be.”  (His wife happened to be my Camp Fire Girls troop leader.)  Admittedly, 36 years later I may not be remembering the words he said verbatim but that’s very, very close to exactly what he said.

Memories are tricky things and I would very much like to hope I’m just misremembering this incident and that’s not really how it happened.  But I’m really pretty confident that it is exactly how it happened.  I find it interesting that this many years later I don’t remember what I was being disciplined for, but I do remember the end of what was said to me.

I was raised to be respectful to people in authority and to my elders.  So when this teacher was saying this to me, I was incredibly hurt but I honestly don’t think it ever entered my mind there was anything I could do about it.  So I never told anyone at the time.  I did eventually tell my mom about it a few years ago.  As an adult now when I do think about it, certainly it still hurts but mostly I just think this man is a coward for bullying a child like that.  I feel his words crossed a line into a personal attack.  He was no longer discussing my behavior in class or my performance as a student.  He was attacking me.  And that is just not ok for a teacher to do to a student.

Yes, words really can hurt… even many years later.