Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”

There have been many times in my life that I have wanted the name and number of the moron that came up with this false statement!

The fact is, bones generally heal, even if they need plates and pins to do so.

Words on the other hand go deep. They embed themselves into the very fabric of people’s lives and souls; often swelling like waves at both unexpected and inopportune times.

We were at the park on an especially beautiful day over 15 years ago. There were numerous other families committed to home education in attendance. A very young mom ran down the berm and into the play area with her two darling children. Both excitement and anticipation of newly found community, and what it would have to offer her radiated on her face. After a brief exchange of names, the more seasoned individuals present began (with good intentions) to pepper her with questions about her curriculum choices, the extracurricular activities her children were involved with, the length of time that she had home-educated, and on and on. I watched as her demeanor changed. No one even noticed when she quietly slipped away, shoulders drooping, children in tow, to trudge up that same berm to her minivan. I caught up with her, asking if there was anything I could do to help. When she turned around, tears were streaming down her face. “I guess I haven’t made the correct choices where this group is concerned. I was looking for support, and instead I feel overwhelmed, inadequate and discouraged. Thank you, but clearly, I don’t belong here.”

That exchange still haunts me from time to time. I can assure you, it wasn’t an intentional mistreatment. And yet, what strikes me now and is still so relevant, is the fact that, upon returning to the group of ladies still present, no one was even aware of the situation we had, in our zeal created! Things had moved on as usual.

Fast forward to today and the ever growing, expanding and changing world of social media. I must confess that many times, I fail to see social and media as a good fit.

Social by its very definition means “gregarious, companionable, public.”

Media means “mass communication regarded collectively.” Interestingly, it also means “intermediate layer.”

There are so very many times that my children absolutely howl at my lack of computer and social media knowledge. For me, it can be likened to attempting to drink from a fire hose. But I want to learn, and I am. I am currently reading the book “Platform” by Michael Hyatt. What resonates with me most, is the fact that there are still manners and forms that produce excellent results in the social media world. There are also levels of communication, expertise and execution within this realm. I am relieved.

It saddens me tremendously that our society is rapidly losing the art of communicating both effectively and graciously amongst ourselves. Social media often allows for a cowardly approach to confrontation or even yelling (all caps is a nice touch) at others, and then retreating to silence or simply another forum.

Mr. Hyatt’s book has made me pause and reflect upon the fact, that as a mother influencing the next generation; I have a responsibility to model and communicate to my children, the responsibilities involved in leading within this venue well. It will be a huge part of their world and how they communicate with others.

Please both indulge me as well as feeling free to take a laugh or two from the following observations. Know that I am committed to discussing them even further with my children.

The excitement that they are containing at the prospect of this discussion, I’m confident is huge.

1. It won’t affect my ability to sleep this evening knowing whether or not you have shopped at the grocery store, the smart phone kiosk, or been to a movie of your choosing.

In fact, please know that I love you regardless of how you are choosing to spend both your time and disposable income! I actually thrive on a measure of intrigue and unknown in our relationship, and take joy in getting to know you better without media assistance. Ditto on cryptic posts and boyfriend/girlfriend fights.

2. Typing “at” me in all caps doesn’t help me to hear your thoughts any more effectively than when you scream at me in person. If you’re cat walked on the CAPS lock, please proof your thoughts before sending. Thanks!

3. Communities thrive when everyone involved recognizes that socially, they have always contained layers. Layers of expertise, life experience, beliefs, and so on. Waiting to pounce on me because of a comment, a quote I’ve posted, a like I’ve expressed, or so that you can personally be validated…is rude. I’ve made these errors myself and, equipped with new resolve, make every attempt not to do so further. I’m sure I will fail because I’m human. Remembering that, and recognizing that someone may be having a bad day, is struggling with a difficult life circumstance, or is overwhelmed; and giving the benefit of the doubt, goes a long way to tending communities that thrive.

4. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” ~ Thumper’s Mother in Bambi. No further explanation needed.

5. Delete is also a button. “Well, I just needed to vent!” I hear this often and agree. I guess the real question is do you need to hit “POST?”

There’s a verse in the Bible that says this:

“The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.” ~ Proverbs 15:2, New Living Translation

Belching is definitely a social faux pas.

Whether at a park, or screen-to-screen from wherever I may be; it is my desire to remember that one of the most prolific forms of social media contains the word FACE.

I hope the sticks and stones of my words build others up so that their countenance shines with joy and hope; and that I am a builder and contributor to communities.

My children and yours are watching.

Teri is a believer in God, family, community, and lover of leadership education the Thomas Jefferson way. Teri writes and also speaks about lessons learned on her educational journey with 5 rambunctious sons, ages 22 down to 9, one hero Hubby, and celebrating day to day life with lots of humor, within the human race. You can find Teri blogging at Tommy Mom.

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  1. You had me howling! But seriously…thank you! I love this post and always appreciate you saying what so many of us think.

  2. Great post Teri. My father always taught me to never criticize as my house is not in order. I love this piece of wisdom that he imparted to me. Life has also taught me that it is not what you say, but how you say it.

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