Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But Words Will Never Hurt Me?

Remember that child hood sing-song saying”Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” 

What a load of crap.


This week as I was listening to Home Front by Kristin Hannah, a story of a military woman with a rocky marriage who is called away to fight in Afghanistan.  Shortly before her deployment while in yet another heated argument with her husband over his time management skills and being there for their children he says these words,

“I can’t do this anymore.  I just don’t love you.”

The woman is shocked.  It is just an argument.  The book describes that she collapses and reaches out for the counter as the words sink into her very soul.  It is like the bottom just fell out of her life.

And they say words don’t hurt.  🙄

It was about that moment when that old saying about sticks and stones hit me.  I flashed back to a grade school version of me in a playground with friends while a boy taunted us over one thing or another.  I can recall my little voice singing out the sticks and stones thing and tossing my braids over my shoulder and off I went with my posse.


The truth is there is a lot of power to words.  As writers, they are must have tools.  As readers we want the words to make us feel… feel pain, hurt, betrayal, love, fear adoration, sorrow, triumph, anger….

the list really goes on and on. 

In fact as I ramble on here and apparently am building up steam on this topic, words that make us feel are what we crave in a book.  We WANT to feel, even… if it is painful. 

And really – what a rush a good book is when it does make us feel.  From the very comforts of our own home we get the privilege of experiencing all this emotion through the books we choose to read.. through the words the writer gives out minds to play around with.

Who among us has not experienced emotion through reading?  Have you laughed or cried while in a book?  Have you turned a page in anger over what you have just read, or turned it slowly and fearfully… afraid what you will read next?

Honestly – I love it when a book makes me feel big emotions one way or another.  When I read a review, I want to know how the book made the reader feel. 

How about you?  Do you like your books to bring out emotions?  Do you agree or disagree that words have power?  On and off the pages?  Would love to dissect this topic with you!

About Sheila (Book Journey)

Bookaholic * Audio Book Fan *Bike Rider *Rollerblader *Adventure Seeker *Runner*Coffee lover *Fitness Fan * Movie junkie

Posted on April 13, 2012, in Book Thoughts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Words definitely have power. I think negative words sometimes have even more power than positive words in the way they can stay with a person for a lifetime. That’s how it feels for me anyway! I can remember particularly well the mean comments sent my way as a kid compared to the praise…

    I was just talking about the importance of word choice in books at work today and how some authors just seem to consider it so carefully because it is so important to get their message across. One such book-Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron which my book group read last month. Really powerful stuff.

    I just read Home Front. What an amazing book! I tried one other Kristin Hannah book and it wasn’t for me but this was really good. I hope you are enjoying it. So much to say about the power of words in that book-the power of her husband’s words to hurt her, the power her daughter’s words could have given her, the power that her military family’s words of encouragement give and the power her own words have on her family in her messages home or even before she left with her can-do, Pollyanna attitude.

    I love when books bring out emotions whether it is joy or sorrow or anger.

    • I am listening to it on audio and the narrator is doing a wonderful job of voicing the kids strong oppinions AND words. I think the best books do make us feel, I like it when a book does that and I am way more likely to remember a book when it does make me happy or sad, or even mad then one that was just an ok read with no really no emotion brought out of me at all.
      Thanks for commenting! Appreciate your insight!

      • I imagine that listening to the book on audio would have even more of an emotional impact!

        The first book to ever make me cry-because I was angry at a character-was The Kite Runner. It is something that stays with you. I haven’t read that book in years.

  2. Words, whether spoken or written, are powerful! They can wound or heal.

    That old adage is true: The pen is mightier than the sword.

    • Thats right Beth! Great reminder! As an author I can imagine what it must feel like when you put your characters into whatever scenario you wish, all by the flick of that pen – harm or love can come their way – the power all held within you! 🙂

  3. Words hold a tremendous amount of power. I do love when a book brings out emotions – it’s a sign of masterful writing.

  4. Oh, words definitely can hurt us as nothing else can. We might forget when someone hits us, but the words said in cruelty live on as we mull them over and over.

    By the same token, words can heal.

    I do love a book that evokes emotion…sometimes it might be powerful, and at other times, it might be a character who is so annoying; probably because that character reminds us of someone we know or a situation we’ve been in. I laugh, cry, or want to throw things because of the emotions aroused from books.

  5. Definitely! I think that’s why I’m taking such a long time to read Snow by Orhan Pamuk, which I’ve been slowly making my way through. It’s written in a very emotionally detached style, so although there’s a lot of emotion in the book, it doesn’t make me feel it.

  6. No question of the power of words. I love when a book brings out strong emotions – it’s why I read.
    Thoughtful post, Sheila.

  7. I agree with the other comments! Words have power…negative and positive. Two teachers had an enormous impact on my life one positive and one negative with their words. Thankfully, the positve (thank you Mr. Porter) outweighed the negative. I love it when a book brings out strong emotions.

  8. Words…oh man. Even now at 53 years old, words can hurt my feelings. EVEN IF I know in my head that they weren’t meant to. That sounds very immature, but, I guess it depends on my mood, sometimes I am over sensitive to words, because they really can cut like a knife sometimes. BUT on the bright side, positive words can make you feel so good-happy-proud-wonderful, etc.

    • I do that too Debbie, especially if I am tired – I overthink things and take them more personally… I have to remind myself that I am tired and usually after a good nights sleep I can be more level 🙂

  9. I do like a book which makes me feel something. Also if a book makes me reflect on some aspect of it, it does linger longer in the mind.

  10. awesome

  11. Staci@LifeintheThumb

    What a great post! Words are so very powerful…more powerful than fists! I want my books to bring me to my knees in tears and other times to make me jump in the air with joy!

  12. Excellent post!!! Books are magical in the way they can make experience a gambit of emotions in about 300-400 pages. I am going to hit the share button and share this on my facebook fan page!!

  13. My kids are amused at the way I laugh or cry while reading. They are less amused at the way it affects my mood for a little while afterwards.
    Recently an imaginary friend (eg someone I knew only through writing to her on the internet) decided she didn’t want to have any more to do with me after writing back and forth with me daily for four years. You can believe that hurt a lot.

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