Sticks stones and words that hurt

I have journal entries that are entirely about words. Some words are just so phenomenal that they deserve to be explored.





But it wasn’t until recently that I explored a word that I had never thought to explore before.

This one is Evil.

What brought this about?

Not the attacks on innocent people around the world. Although perhaps they should have.

This was much closer to home.

One afternoon when unpacking Ayla’s homework folder, a piece of paper was discovered that another child slipped into her bag. It was a crude drawing on construction paper with these words at the top: Evl Ayla. Not a typo.

When asked about the picture, the first thing Ayla said was “that’s not how you spell evil.”

No, Ayla, it isn’t.

This drawing that was slipped into our daughter’s backpack sparked some interesting conversations at home.

My husband and I discussed words like “sociopath” and “bullying.”

Ayla used the words “inappropriate” and “on purpose.”

We talked a little about words that can hurt.

The one word that we haven’t quite touched on in detail is “evil.”

And we need to discuss it, because “evil” is certainly a word that could potentially hurt.

The old adage about sticks and stones breaking bones is all well and fine. Lots of us who were raised hearing that phrase were rarely hit with sticks and stones. But we were hit up on a regular basis with words that hurt.

Words. Do. Cause. Pain.

Emotional pain is heavy. It leaves scars on our soul that can change the lens through which we see the world.

If emotional pain is something we experience, we are left with that experience forever.

In the event that we get support for the pain we feel, that we do the work and come to a place that we can say we have healed, it doesn’t change that the experience never happened.

My daughter was not cornered on the playground and beat up. No one demanded she hand over her lunch money. She was not forced to complete homework for a bigger, tougher, kid.

Instead she received a personal message from an anonymous person. A message that could have changed the way that she views herself.

She could have taken that message to mean that other people see her as “evil.”

I should tell you now that Ayla did not freak out. She didn’t cry, or get angry, or feel like she had been unjustly treated.

She told us that the picture was inappropriate, that she thought someone did it on purpose, and that she wanted to talk to her teacher about it.

And she did. She used those words with her teacher and did what she thought was the right thing. And she has moved on.

But my sensors are up. I am all too aware of what the impact of these experiences can be as young girls grow into adolescence and then into adulthood.

We were lucky this time. Sticks and stones were not thrown, only words. And in this case, the words seems to roll right off Ayla’s chest.

That’s my sparkly girl.

And that is the silver lining in this post. My kid had the tools and confidence to handle this event with grace and poise that is rare in adults. I could not have been more proud.

Words can hurt, but sometimes the words we don’t say can cause even more pain.

Some of those words are hard as hell to say. Its hard to dive into highly charged emotional issues. Like the concept of evil. Or even what it means to love.

When we don’t though, the results can be stifling. As we, you and I and the other mothers and journal writers of the world, dive into words to help us explore our human experience, we can be grateful that even though words can cause serious harm, they can also heal. They can be used to generate ideas. Words solve problems.

With words, especially those that inspire actions, we can make the world a better place.

(Yup, I totally just went to that cheese fest type place – sometimes I just can’t help myself.)

It could be that each time we pick up our pen, we make a difference.

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:
Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit or

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