“Our words are powerful, so powerful that they can change our reality – the quality of our days and nights.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
A tipping point moment as a woman occurred for me a decade ago. I stood on a stone patio outside a beautiful wedding reception. A man my husband and I spent a long time trying to navigate better (healthy, whole, separate, mature, and respectful) pointed his index finger within inches of our toddler’s face. He spoke humiliating words over her from his rage because she was refusing to cooperate with him. Her father and I stood helplessly beside her. We did not know HOW to stop him from bullying her heart and ours. I realized then and later the damage we do with the words we allow.
The Words We Allow
We allow many words into our lives. The words were spoken to us as children and teens, the ones we did not know how to navigate or refute become the life themes we spend decades attempting to “get over.” Perhaps we did not have the confrontational skills or the emotional maturity necessary at the time. So the adults and children around us spoke harm or hurt and we took it to heart as our truth. Maybe another adult was not present to speak affirming honesty to balance out the lies. Or maybe the adult speaking harm spoke as someone we trusted, loved, and believed. Maybe as a Christian good kid, we thought it was more important to be nice and maintain their approval than to speak up boldly in defense of ourselves.
Whatever the reason their harmful rhetoric about us became the truth we lived about ourselves for a very long time.
Perhaps we never realized how or when it happened, but we carry the baggage of their words with us for decades.
Those words cling to us.
You Know the Saying: Hurt people, hurt people?
This ugly moment for our young family was not a fluke or someone simply having a bad day. This was how we learned to anticipate being approached. Anytime there was a private opportunity for him to express his displeasure with us you could guarantee there would be harmful, shaming words present. Everyone knows an adult bully. They are experts at using shame, guilt, intimidation, and manipulation to harm our spirits and speak poison into our lives.
It can be hard to acknowledge or know how to respond, but we all know at least one.
However, over time you have to begin to make choices to protect yourself. What we may have quietly tolerated when we were younger and trying to keep the peace became vastly different once we had children. Over time we learned HOW to give our personal Rageaholic fewer opportunities to speak into the heart and soul space of our family.
Intentional steps and choices we made when we felt there was no other way.
Stop Sticking Your Head In the Bucket
There comes a point in your life when you refuse to continue sticking your head in the bobbing apple bucket because it overflows with poisoned water. No matter how hard you try to make it right you are still bobbing for apples you might never capture – in water that will kill you. A few good apples floating in a bucket of poison – is it really worth it?
We all have these places and people where we are not OK. We feel like they are sucking the life from us because they are sucking the life from us. Their words harm us often. We feel muted and bound. Like we have no choice.
We always have a choice. We get to choose who speaks into the lives of our children and families.
Because the words we allow matter.
The saying “Hurt people, hurt people,” isn’t good enough. Broken people do not get a free pass simply because they hurt. They are responsible for their behavior. We are responsible for the amount of neediness, rage, bitterness, or emotional/spiritual immaturity we bring into the lives of others.
But when it comes to family and faith communities – harmful, hurting people and their poisonous words/actions often are allowed to do what they do without consequences, confrontation, or rebuke. Instead of backing away and protecting our children or ourselves, we play nice, put on our smiles, we slather them with grace and “Jesus Love” praying they will see the need to change. “Jesus will help them change.” But we fail to recognize how often people are unable to change. And there is something to be said for being able. The words they speak and the pain they cause is HOW they operate. If it didn’t work for them, they wouldn’t do it. What makes you think they are going to change what has proven fruitful thus far?
The words we allow religious communities, families, and religious people to speak over our children merely because “they are a part of the body of Christ” and “we need to forgive and be reconciled” is disturbing.
We shouldn’t allow people to get away with it.
But we do. And the children suffer.
The words we allow matter.
Finally this is part 19 from a series on Shifting Faith – Confronting My Church Wounds.
You can find the rest of the series below:
- Coming Undone
- Pit of Despair
- Healing Takes Time
- The Act of Seeing
- Mean Church Girls
- You are NOT Good Enough
- A Year of Silence
- Evangelicals and the “Gay Agenda”
- I Felt Duped
- Critical, Sexist Church Men
- Anniversary of Tears
- Conservative Christian Women Support Trump
- Generational Consequences of Violence Against Women
- and 16. Four Ways Faith Shifts Affect Children