Sticks and Stones 2

All this from a tripPhoto credit: Rev Stan

My husband has been getting an earful about the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin dustup within the Miami Dolphins organization. He is good to me, my husband. He lets me rant and rage and he nods his head and he says, “yes,” and “of course,” and “you’re right, dear.”

Truth is, none of us will ever really know what happened between those two, and really, it’s none of our business. But, now, journalists and lawyers are involved. Each side is leaking allegations in well-timed, calculated sound bites.

Honestly, it’s all very much like some kind of junior high girl drama. I remember those days. Ashley or Amanda got mad and Cindy or Kelly. The reasons were usually nebulous and loosely explained. She did that thing in the cafeteria, or she looked at the boy at the bus stop the wrong way. Maybe her hair was in the wrong style. Who knows. Then, Ashley, tells Amanda to tell Kelly she’s mad at her. Then, Kelly gets mad and has Cindy write her a note. On paper. It was the olden days, before we could publicly shame our friends on social media.

Everyone chose sides. By the end of the day, teams had solidified. This kind of nonsense might go on a few days, until finally, just as nebulously, the issue resolved. And they all painted nails and styled their hair and wore matching outfits until Cindy chewed her gum the wrong way sending Amanda into fits of angst.

But that’s not the point. The thing I keep going back to is the power of words. Because while Ashely and Kelly have resolved themselves on the surface, words were said, names were hurled, insults and slanders flew like arrows. Ashely and Kelly and Cindy and Amanda carry those wounds forever. No matter how much their orthodonture gleams in smiles.

So the Incognito thing has raised, again, a national debate about bullying. And who knows what these two guys said to each other? What I do know is that words carry weight, sometimes the weight of a thrown punch or a body blow.

My daughters went back in forth after school today. At issue was an orange gel pen that had disappeared. Accusations. Names. Doors slammed. Pencil cases were zipped with vigor and vitriol.

Then, I learned that one daughter had a particularly rough day for various reasons outside her control. And the gel pen was under the dining room table. It was time to remind my girls that when we throw words like spears, we forget what lies underneath the listener’s ears.

Both daughters were tired and irritated. In their own irritation, they forgot that the other one had her own junk she was hauling around. I wonder if that’s a little bit of what’s behind the Dolphins predicament. We become mindless to the heaviness in others’s lives.

We forget, too, that a carelessly spoken word chinks our armor, slices our skin, cuts with precision into the tenderest spots. They say on the playground that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I disagree, and so do The Fairly Odd Parents. My eldest reminded me that The Disney show’s version is, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words ┬áleave emotional scars that never heal.”

It’s a funny line, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. How we talk to people, and what we say matters.