I’ll never forget the first time a girl in elementary school told me I was ugly.
I remember it felt like the world stopped spinning and suddenly everyone was looking in my direction nodding in agreement. Red hot shame filled my cheeks. I ran to the bathroom. I stared at my face in the mirror. I didn’t bother to wipe away the tears. I just stood there wishing I could cover up whatever it was that made that girl determine I wasn’t acceptable.
Have you ever heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?
As much as I wanted to grab those words and declare them as my mantra, I realized it wasn’t just a part of me that I could hide that she thought was ugly.
It was the sum total of me.
Not just my hair or my nose or my body… it was all of me.
And the saddest part of all… as I stared at my reflection that day, I decided to agree with her hurtful words… and I let her, a girl who didn’t even really know me, define me.
I’m more than 40 years removed from that incident (hey now – don’t try and calculate my age) and yet sometimes I still look in the mirror and feel like that little girl struggling to not feel defined by the worst that’s been said about me. It’s not just moments from elementary school, there are moments in my adult life where I have struggled with feeling not enough.
Can you relate?
It’s so easy to remember others’ hurtful words to us instead of leaning into God’s healing words over us.
But friend, if I was sitting down to speak some mentoring wisdom into your world today, I would challenge you with some truth that has helped me tremendously.
Someone’s assumptions about you and facts about you are not one in the same.
You see, sometimes people get so jaded that it brings them some kind of weird satisfaction to point out what they assume to be flaws in you. They let stirred up feelings inside of them be mistaken for permission to attack and judge and reduce you down to their worst thoughts about you.
And usually, what they say isn’t even really about you. When people feel bad about themselves, they’ll often try to project their own insecurities on others.
But the truth is, if they haven’t sat with you when the whites of your eyes turn red and leak tears, they don’t know you.
If they can’t readily share something they love about you, they don’t know you.
If they haven’t ever admitted their own flaws and insecurities and uncertainties to you, they don’t know you.
And if they don’t know you, they can’t possibly see your true beauty. So, they can’t possibly speak as if their assumptions are facts.
If you’re hanging your head today because of something not nice or not true someone said about you, I want you to remember these words from your friend Lysa: prove them wrong.
Respond with gentle, kind words and your true beauty will shine in such a way that no one can deny it. 1 Peter 3:4 says, “Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” This isn’t a girl who is silent. This is a girl whose soul isn’t screaming for the world’s approval because she already has God’s approval. Remember who you are and whose you are.
You are kind.
You are compassionate.
You are fun.
You are loved.
You are creative.
You are thoughtful.
You are prayerful.
You are more than enough.
You don’t have to fall into the trap of saying ugly things back. Prove them wrong with living in such a way that illuminates the beautiful reality of who you are and who Jesus is in you.
Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” As disciples of Jesus, we are called to exercise emotional restraint by giving soft responses rather than harsh or painful ones. This enables us to turn back wrath instead of stirring it up, which only serves to cause further damage.
We can decide that cycles of hurt going ‘round and ‘round the world today can stop with us.
We can determine today that we will not scrutinize and brutalize others with our unknowing and incomplete understanding.
And we can declare that we will be beautiful women more willing to uncross our arms and get to know one another. That we will not be critics full of assumptions eager to point fingers. But instead, we will bring lots more love into every conversation people have with us, even from the very first hello.
You deserve to stop suffering because of what other people have done to you. Walk through a step-by-step process to free yourself from the hurt of your past and feel less offended today with Lysa’s new book, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget. Pre-order your copy at ForgivingWhatYouCantForget.com and instantly receive the first three chapters!
Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way and Uninvited. She writes from her gray farm table and lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at www.LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.