Sticks & Stones: Why Verbal Abuse Kills, Part I

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Sticks and stones
Will break my bones,
But names will never hurt me….

Do you remember chanting that nursery rhyme on the school playground? We were told by the teachers that names couldn’t hurt, so anything a bully said could be ignored. It was a great idea for children (maybe) but it’s a naive idea that doesn’t work in real life. And there are reasons.

It is almost universally accepted that physical abuse is worse than verbal abuse. Stereotypical abuse includes black eyes, broken arms, bruised and broken ribs, split lips, etc. Every emergency room doctor and pediatrician knows what to look for and will call the authorities. It is visible, it is obvious, and it is horrific.

But the same injuries might occur from falling down the stairs or from a car accident. It is not the physical injuries that are really the problem. The danger of escalation to life-threatening injuries is certainly real and not to be discounted. But I’m going to suggest that the physical wounds of abuse are not really the measure of how bad abuse is. In saying this I am not attempting to minimize physical abuse. I am trying to communicate that all forms of abuse are equally devastating and dangerous — and why.

Because we identify people by their external appearance, we are confusing physical injuries with the substance of the abuse. OK, that sounded a little disconnected. Bear with me a minute here.

Remember, who you are is not your body. You are the person who is wearing that body suit during this earthly lifetime. Who you are is independent of your body, though the two are connected.

What makes physical abuse so horrific is the same thing that makes verbal abuse so horrific. What makes either one unbearably bad is the attack on the person — the real person, not the body being worn by the person. Physical abuse generally comes with verbal abuse. The physical abuse communicates assault, hatred, even murder, against the person within the body. The physical abuse is a vehicle for the heart of the abuse – the attack on the person inside the skin.

Abuse is an assault on the person. It can and will kill the person. Physical abuse is just one manifestation of abuse – it is not the worst; it is the most visible and it can certainly kill the fastest. All forms of abuse can and will kill because they are attacking who the victim really is. The heart of all types of abuse is the assault on the person — sometimes through the person’s emotions, sometimes through the person’s self worth, sometimes through the person’s body, sometimes through the person’s spirit — but always against the person.

Sticks and stones
May break my bones,
But words could even kill me…

2 Responses

  1. I couldn’t have said it better. Words were doing that to me and I was losing weight dangerously fast although I was trying my best to not lose weight.

  2. Danni, the words you said are exactly expressing what I have been feeling. I felt like I started to wither with every accusation or offensive and hurtful word my husband said. The things he said made my whole body ache physically. (bones, teeth, stomach, breathing problems).

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