It’s hard to write these things.
But I want to tell you that there are words, words that have been said to me that have stuck with me for ten, twenty, and even thirty years. Words so hurtful and deep that their voice resonates, sometimes louder than my loudest circumstances. Words that have made me question the very core of who I believed I was. Who I said I was. Who I was trying to be. There are words, whose message, has made me doubt myself in the areas of my life where I should be the most confident in who I am.
I have been called a fool.
I have been called unforgivable and a hypocrite. I have been told that I was a bad mother and that I was ruining my relationship with my children. I have been told that I can’t keep a house in order, that I’m too intense and that I’m desperate. I’ve been told that people only spend time with me because they enjoy my husband and kids. I’ve been told that I’m not very smart and that I’m only fooling anyone who thinks I am.
All of those are real words. REAL Words, verbatim, that have been said to me in my life. Aren’t they incredibly harsh? Even to go back and stir up those memories for the purpose of writing this, was so painful and frustrating.
When we are living day to day and things are going fairly well, I think we fail to realize that in the back of our minds, we are still hearing the words. We are still hearing the voices of hurt, some of them from so, so many years ago. Voices from a person we felt loved us and was looking out for our best interest. Voices from a person who we trusted and shared all our secrets with. It’s hardest to forget the painful words when they come from the voice of someone who is supposed to truly love us for who we are.
The words I wrote above. All of those words came from the person I know better than anyone in the world. All of those words came from me.
We truly are what we speak.
What comes out of our mouths becomes what we believe. I cringed at the depth of pure meanness as I wrote all of those hurtful comments above. I mean, seriously, I would never speak those words to anyone! Yet, I spoke them so freely to myself. They didn’t all happen in one conversation. They happened over the years, through many different trials and circumstances. They crept in, one critical jab after another, slow and sneaky. I wasn’t raised to speak to myself like that. For some of us, that is the inner voice we were taught to hear, and that is heartbreaking. But for all of us, at least to some degree, it just seems to come naturally.
But I know there is a better way.
I am confident, self-respecting, and I even like the person I am. Because louder than those painful words are the words that refute them. While no one has ever been more hateful to me than I’ve been to myself, I have greater skills in that I have also learned to be kind. So I want to remind you that you are what you speak. Not only to your children, co-workers, spouse, and friends. But also to yourself. Give yourself grace for your mistakes and believe that when we speak life, we give life. Death and life are truly in the power of the tongue. The best thing about speaking kind and encouraging words to ourselves, is that we are not selfish in doing so. It’s not selfish because it goes so far beyond us. When we are kind to ourselves, it oozes out of who we are and it pours into the souls of everyone around us. Not only do we speak life into who we are, but others will naturally pick up on our agenda. They will look at us and they will feel that same kindness and grace. They will feel it from us, and they will feel it for themselves.
When I was in college, someone I worked with, told me to my face that they did not like me. Their reason? “You’re fake. You always go around happy, acting like things are good, and complimenting people. But I know that no one is really like that, and I hate that you try to pretend like you are.” Those words. Those words came from a petite little waitress that I worked with, and they nearly destroyed me. I am a verbal person; I can’t help myself. I love people and when I see people I think nice things and I want to say them out loud! So I do say them and to this day, in the back of my mind, I hear her voice telling me every time that this person thinks I’m being fake. But I know me. And “me” likes to tell people when I think something kind about them. And that voice inside me will always choose to scream louder than the voice of someone hurting so badly that they chose to hurt me with their words. Even when the hurtful voices are my own.
So whoever it is that you are. The real you. May that voice be confident and life-giving, gracious and generous. May that voice, when up to fierce battle against the critical voices deep within, may it win. May it always win.