The Biggest Lie I Heard in Nursery School
Your teacher meant well.
The verse she taught sounded so innocent, so comforting. And it’s all true, except for the last line.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
I found out the hard way that statement is a load of cow patties. You know, the ones that litter the field out there — not burgers if you know what I mean.
Three ways words hurt me
One morning when I was in fourth grade, a bully approached me and demanded I give him my lunch money.
“You got some money? Give it to me and I won’t hurt you.”
I might have said no if he didn’t look like the abominable snowman. He was six and a half feet tall, had almost white hair, and must have weighed 300 pounds. He might have been old enough to drive a car.
Since he outweighed me by at least a hundred pounds, I gave him whatever he wanted.
Fortunately for me and my wallet, I never saw him again. I either got good at hiding or the cops took him away.
The next bully was a teacher.
It was the first day at a new school — a private Christian school. My parents were concerned about what was going on in the county schools so they sent me somewhere where I’d be safe.
It was third period. Bible class. My teacher, who looked like an office clerk with his starched to death white shirtsleeves, a conservative red tie with stripes, and a hairdo that resembled the plastic wigs the band Devo wore in their heyday.
“Turn in your Bibles to 1st Chronicles.”
I fumbled in my pocket and found my Gideon New Testament. “I wonder if this Bible has Chronicles in it, “ I muttered.
“YOU BE QUIET!” my teacher demanded.
Those words shocked me to the core. I wondered what my great crime was. So, as an immature 11 year old, I protected myself by building a relational shell almost no one could crack until I got to college.
The third time I was closing the store I managed. I took the till to the office and as soon as I pushed through the storeroom doors, a masked gunman confronted me.
“ALL RIGHT, F*CKER, YOU KNOW WHAT I’M HERE FOR. GIVE ME ALL THAT MONEY.”
Since he was pointing a gun at me, I complied.
I was numb and cooperative when it happened. But when I was alone, that event haunted me for over a month. And it pretty much ruined my Christmas.
My kindergarten teacher meant well when she taught me that rhyme. She wanted me to stand up to bullies and not let their words shape my identity. But I wasn’t mature enough to get what she or the words of that rhyme meant until much later.
4 Ways to Use Words for Good
I love acrostics so I’m going to give you one now.
It’s appropriate because we use our lips to say our words. And it’s easy to remember because we all have lips.
L — Lift others.
A school bully pestered my daughter repeatedly when she was in elementary school. I know because she told me about it every day.
Then one day, I told her these words.
“Kayla, the next time that girl comes to bother you with hateful words, say this. ‘That’s your opinion. Your opinion doesn’t matter. My parents think I’m great. Their opinion is the only one that matters.’”
I figured she’d just let it go in one ear and out the other.
Then she came home and told me, “Daddy, I told her exactly what you told me to say. She didn’t say a word. And she hasn’t bothered me anymore.”
Use your words to lift others. It can literally change the quality of their lives.
I — Inform
Years ago, I hired a lady to work for me. Doriis was bubbly, energetic, and nervous.
I needed Doris to learn to run the cash register. That way, I could have the freedom of movement I needed to make sure everything was going as it should. I stood with her trying to teach her how the machine worked. She trembled and threw up her hands in despair.
Then I got an idea.
Her sister worked with us. I’d let her teach Doris. She’d know what to say and how to say it to get the job done.
Within a week, Doris was running the register like a champ.
Why hand someone a fish when you can teach them to find their own? Show them by your words that they can, and often they will.
Even if you have to find someone else to do it.
P — Promote
People love it when you sing their praises.
I remember one day when we visited my aunt and uncle. We were outside washing cars and my uncle said, “You know, you have a real gift for writing. You could really do well with that.”
My uncle was the CEO of an international shipping company. He was responsible for thousands of employees. He was also a skilled negotiator who knew how to get things done and motivate people. To do all that he needed to read people quickly and read them well.
That compliment meant the world to me. It’s why I went on to publish books that sold well, write articles for clients, and contribute content to websites.
Give someone a shout out whenever you can. Compliment them sincerely. Who knows what they’ll go on to do because of your words?
S — Soothe
People have come to me over the years because I offer them a listening ear.
A friend shared his relational hurts with me. He asked for advice. He listened to what I said, but didn’t always follow my advice.
I knew he just wanted me to listen.
Another friend went through a painful divorce. I listened to all the grizzly details and offered encouragement that tomorrow would be a better day. I empathized with the pain they all felt. Again, I didn’t offer unwanted advice. I just listened and offered words of hope in the midst of darkness.
A few people have done the same for me when I needed it.
There’s no worse feeling than being in pain and feeling alone. We want to know people care. Someone. Anyone. I felt that when no one offered any word of encouragement after that awful first day of school. Sure, no one knew me. But no one reached out either.
When my PE teacher took time with me, I felt a ray of hope in my dark view of the world. His words were like sunshine in my dark soul.
And it didn’t hurt that he was so short I could look him straight in the eye.
Offer your ear to someone in trouble. Listen intently. Then the words they need will come to your mind and out of your mouth.
Words can hurt and they can also heal. Use them to restore some broken hearts, bones, and relationships. Then you’ll make the words in that silly nursery rhyme come true.