I’d rather have you break my leg than break my heart.

This week was SEAL’s Sticks and Stones Campaign here at Longwood. While this year was the third time around for this campaign, it meant something new to me this year as the topic tackled at our presentation was “Words Hurt.”

“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yeah, right. We say this old saying without stopping and thinking about what truth lies behind it. Sticks and stones break bones, but words break hearts and souls.

It is a proven fact that our bodies are wired to be affected by emotional pain, to feel hurt and to feel empty. There is a scientific connection between feelings of rejection and actual heat touching our bodies. Words may not leave physical scars on our bodies, but they can do permanent damage to our hearts – which is a lot more painful and a lot more powerful.

There is always more to a story than meets the eye. You don’t know what the person next to you is going through, just as they don’t know what you are going through. You don’t know how your words said without thinking may hurt someone. Or maybe you do. Maybe you know someone and their feelings and you still choose to say what you will. And while no one can stop you, I hope that you stop yourself. I hope that you see that words really do hurt, and that while words may not be a fist to the face, hurtful words can cause you to fall in tears on the kitchen floor.

Words seem simple. You open your mouth and they just come out. You can sit on your bed in your dorm room and hide behind the screen of your laptop, the screen of your phone, and say whatever comes to your mind. These words are said without thinking about how they could be received. It’s quick to say that words are no big deal, but if unthoughtful words were being thrown at us, we might just feel otherwise. 

Am I a “terrible leader?” I hope not. Do I “deserve to feel alone?” I pray not. But do these words replay themselves in my head? Unfortunately, yes. 

Putting others down and making them feel less than who they are is not okay. Each one of you deserve to feel worth, deserve to know that you matter and that you are someone important. Words are words, yes. They are some random combination of 26 letters that some really old dudes made up thousands of years ago. But those words have meaning and those words have power and those words can do more damage than one would ever want for themselves or for those they love.

You have a voice. Use it. Use it for words, but use it for good.

And for the love of God, don’t go breaking anyone’s legs or hearts, okay? Let’s just keep everybody and everything intact.

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