They Called Me Ugly
That one sentence changed the course of my life in the length of time it took to come out of my eighth-grade classmate’s mouth. He will never know how his words affected me and how I viewed myself from that day forward. He and the friend he said it to probably don’t remember the event, but I do—like it was yesterday. I remember what I was wearing and where I was standing when the words ripped through my heart like a launched rocket.
Sometimes we sling words around like Frisbees, not considering where they will land or who they will hurt when they do.
As teenagers my son and his friends called each other names as they played football or other activities. They would laugh, calling out, “You’re an idiot!” or “What’s wrong with you, Ugly?” I cringed as I recalled my own experience with a hurtful comment. He assured me that it was all in jest, but those labels could do unseen damage the boys would never admit.
What about the words we speak to our children or spouse? Do they build up or tear down? Do we inadvertently wound them with a careless comment? Is the tone of our voice inviting or biting?
Remember that a child cannot process an adult’s intent when making a comment. The child can’t reason away a hurtful statement, ignoring the stinging barbs. They take it personally and often internalize it. Believe me, it can reshape their view of life and have devastating results.
When our children or spouse are embroiled in an addiction, caustic words spew effortlessly, burning like battery acid. They are often spoken out of frustration or anger, but they wound and hurt regardless of the reasons they are said. If our loved ones repeatedly hear they are a “no good loser addict” or “a lousy bum” or any number of demeaning names, they eventually tire of trying to rise above the moniker. It’s easier to be what we say they are.
Our addicts are often unable to filter unkind words. Their ability to reason and understand may be compromised. Using positive statements could have a life-changing effect on their self-perceptions. Look for something constructive your addict does and speak words of affirmation; even if it’s nothing more than, “You are thoughtful to call when you’re going to be late getting home.”
I was at a restaurant waiting for a friend, and a woman passed by my table. Our eyes met momentarily, and we smiled at each other. As she walked past again, she stopped and said, “Excuse me. Are you a model? You are beautiful, and I just had to tell you.”
Brief encounters—different outcomes. Choose your words wisely.
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