I didn’t really like High School. Or Junior High. Or Elementary school. School wasn’t so bad when I started as an innocent 4 year old in Ottawa, but it gradually got worse as I got older. By the time I graduated High School, I absolutely hated it.
It’s odd as a writer to say I hated something because of words. I actually love words. What I hated was the words my peers chose to use with each other, and especially with me.
I was born into a world of love. I had amazing parents, an older sister I followed around, and people in my life who protected me. But before I reached the end of my first decade on this earth, I learned how cruel others could be.
Living in the Caribbean at a young age, a minority at a local school, I was exposed to harsh words. I was bullied daily, and the words directed at me cut very deep. I quickly learned that words can destroy. Cruel words uttered more than two decades ago still occasionally taunt me. Sometimes I still hear them when I look in the mirror. The wounds from back then may have healed, but I still carry the scars of the verbal abuse.
As a kid I believed that once I was done school, once I was an adult, I would no longer have to endure bullying and mean words. Of course adults would never say nasty things to each like kids do, right?
Oh, how wrong I was.
I continued to be a victim of ridicule, gossip, and bullying. And as I got older, this caused such anxiety in me that it bordered on paranoia. Anytime I was in public and heard someone laugh, I assumed they were laughing at me. Anytime people spoke in hushed tones, I assumed they were talking negatively about me.
It got so bad that I was afraid to leave my apartment. Some mornings I would stand at my front door for up to an hour trying to find the courage to open it and walk out. Those days I was very late for work, if I made it at all.
Words can destroy.
I am lucky that through counselling and support of family and friends, I overcame my anxiety and paranoia. I learned to find my self-worth in God instead of how others viewed me. I prayed that God would allow me to see myself as He saw me, and I finally began to smile at the person in the mirror.
I learned to love and accept myself as a precious daughter of the Lord. I realized His view of me was the only one that truly mattered, and if He loved and cared for me, then what right did I have not to love and care for myself?
I also realized that God could help me change the things I didn’t like about myself. I had a very negative, cynical view of the world. I had lost faith in love, in people, and in the church. I was easily irritated and had a horrific temper that could explode without warning. I also found that I had developed a mean streak. The years of bullying and verbal abuse had created an ugliness inside me that came out in gossip, judgement, and rude comments.
I didn’t like that side of me. I didn’t want to be that person. So I chose not to be. I began to ask God to let me see others as He saw them. When I wanted to judge someone, I stopped and reminded myself that I had no idea what was happening in their life or what struggles they could be experiencing. When I wanted to express a mean word or cruel statement, I bit my tongue, and reminded myself of all the harsh words used against me and how much damage they had caused. Instead I would ask myself how I could make the situation better instead of worse.
I am not perfect. Sometimes I still give in to anger and judgement. Sometimes I catch myself engaging in gossip. But not nearly as often as I once did. And at least now, I am instantly aware of it and able to repent.
I try very hard to see the good, to choose the good. I wake up every day and choose to be positive, and choose to love first.
Why am I writing about this today?
Because I am still constantly heartbroken at the words people choose to use with each other. I am still in shock by the cruel things said to one another, and the judgement that is so easily placed.
Working at a church, I see so many people worshipping Jesus, and attending workshops and courses on how to be healthy, loving people, but then the sun rises on Monday, and so many of the same people are quick to tear each other down.
Why do we do this to each other?
Why do we engage in this competition to trash one other?
Children and teens are committing suicide due to endless bullying. People use social media to call others names and tear them to pieces. The president of the most powerful country in the world regularly uses Twitter to call people dumb, pathetic, obnoxious & fat, (among other things).
What’s going on with us?
Why do we allow ourselves to engage in this narrative?
Why do we accept such hateful language?
Yes, words can destroy. The above points to that fact.
But words can also build up. Words can love. Words can heal. Words can encourage.
Words can change the world.
Let’s change the narrative of our world.
Let’s change the words we choose.
Let’s choose love.
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