Image Credits: copyright hriana
A few weeks days ago, I went to a sports doctor to have my knees checked after being kept awake a few nights by pain that icing nor Ibuprofen was providing adequate relief for. During intake, I was asked about my activities. I shared that I was a runner averaging 15-20 miles per week during the off-season and 25-30 miles weekly when preparing for a race.
When the physician’s assistant (PA), entered, he commented that he told his staff “There was no way I was a distance runner because I didn’t look like one.” There was no malice in his comment, but I bristled up and replied, “I’m more than meets the eye.” My size is a sensitive subject because I was very unhealthy about 10 years ago. As a kid I also endured a lot of teasing about my size. Now I work hard to maintain my fitness and a healthy weight. However, even at my leanest, I still have a physique that resembles a rugby player more than a runner.
The following day the PA’s comment was still bouncing around in my head. It was clear the comment, though not intended to, had bruised me. This situation reminded me of the power of words. You’re too tall. You’re too short. You’re too fat. You’re too skinny. You’re too old. You’re too young. You’re too gay. Not enough education. Not enough experience. You don’t look like a… Whether malicious or not, statements like these bruise.
Bruises appear when soft tissues beneath the skin have been injured. Like our skin, we develop bruises on our souls when the inventory of what is “wrong” with us is constantly taken without regard for who we are or what we’ve been through. Over time, this bruising (trauma), if not dealt with, can leave us damaged spiritually, socially, emotionally and psychologically, but the damage begins only IF we begin to rehearse and repeat negative things said to and about us. This rehearsal and repetition initiates a process that subtly shapes and reshapes who we are. For years, I silently rehearsed and repeated the comments about my size so much that I avoided looking at myself in mirrors for an entire year. On occasion when I did catch a glimpse of myself, I could see no worth, no purpose, no beauty. Being ridiculed by others hurt but what I began saying about myself changed who I was and how I behaved. Words are powerful. They can create life and cause death.
As I reflected on my experience at the doctor’s office, I came to the following conclusions:
- Be mindful of how you speak to people; strive not to bruise. It’s not only what I say that hurts; it’s the spirit behind the words. When the spirit or intent is to destroy, shut up. Don’t use your nature of being direct or “telling it like it is” as an excuse to bypass tact and compassion. If I can’t figure out how to speak, I’m a mess and a menace. No one needs to hear me.
- Don’t be overly sensitive; don’t bruise easily. We all have tender spots in our souls. It’s natural to recoil when someone touches a sensitive area, but pain often precedes healing. When someone confronts me about an issue, I shouldn’t allow the discomfort to cause me to “mistake an ally for an opponent” (MC Lyte). I must embrace the truth even if it’s feels like I’ve run into a brick wall. I can’t avoid dealing with people who have not yet learned to be mindful of how they speak to others therefore I shouldn’t flippantly dismiss everything they say. I should check to determine if there’s any meat or truth on the bones of their speech. Sometimes a hard-talking person may say the very thing I need to hear. God is not opposed to using asses to deliver important messages.
- Take out the trash by forgiving; treat your bruises. People are going to do and say things that are malicious. When this happens, I should gather up that trash and head to the curb of forgiveness. I shouldn’t be too quick or too slow about offering forgiveness; either approach is improper treatment of the matter. A bruise that is not treated properly will eventually turn into a sore that festers and oozes into other areas of my life. It’s hard to get the stench and rot of decades-old trash out of your soul. Oh and I must remember that people, no matter how mean, are not trash. I shouldn’t cut people off for making mistakes. Yes, when appropriate, establish boundaries, but don’t be cruel and excise someone too quickly. Be willing to forgive at least 70 times 7 times.
“I believe that a word is a thing. It is non-visible and audible only for the time that it’s there. It hangs in the air. I believe it is a thing. I believe it goes into the upholstery and into rugs and into my hair and into my clothes and finally into my body. I believe that words are things, and I live on them.” (Maya Angelou to Dave Chapelle)
We all live on and by words.