When I was in the 6th grade, a friend told me I had the ugliest smile she had ever seen. She suggested that I not smile so hard. I don’t have the best memory, but when certain hurtful words from my past are used, I can vividly tell you when, where, and how I felt at the time. To this day, I have my friend’s comment in the back on my mind when I smile. When I see or hear something really funny, I cover my mouth to keep from showing all of my teeth. The ironic thing is I’ve been to dentist who have marveled over my teeth. One time I went to the dentist, and they actually invited some of their colleagues in to look at my teeth. They were so amazed that my teeth were so straight although I never wore braces. A person may think that being praised by an expert or professional in the field of teeth would have cured my insecurities when it comes to my smile, but for some reason, my friend’s’ comment meant so much more. Not only did the dentist think I had pretty teeth, but I’m a NFL Cheerleader, so they must have approved of my teeth as well! Ten times out of ten times I am smiling as part of my profession. How do I still have these thoughts that haunt me and try to pull down my self esteem? Why is that? What are some hurtful words from your past that you are still dealing with? How does God bring healing to our hurting past?
I wanted to get a broader picture of how people may have been hurt in their past from words and how those words effect their self esteem today. I went to talk to a few of my friends and also my church pastor to gather some true stories about self esteem. I have a habit of gravitating to people who have a special something about them that I admire. I am extremely blessed to have a pastor at my church, Pastor Cori, who is articulate, intelligent, genuine, and most importantly to me, human. She is so down to earth and easy to talk to, which is why I went to her to ask her about what God says about self esteem. Pastor Cori pointed out Psalm 139:13-16 and specifically verse 14. Psalm 139:14 says, “Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” There it is as plain as day, we are wonderfully made period, point blank. You would think that there is nothing else to say……but there is so much more to say. Even with the word of God as protection against hurt, if you don’t consistently foster your relationship with him, you are susceptible to feelings of pain.
Hurt That Lasts A Lifetime
It is so cliché to say that “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words may never hurt.” Words do hurt, and they can hurt for a lifetime. My Aunt Linda proved that words can hurt a life time. As I talked to a few of my friends, I decided to call my Aunt. Surely she can’t still be hurting from words from her past. She is very mature and is a tell-it-like-it-is kind of person. I’ve always looked up to her as a wonderful wife and mother who always seemed to be ahead in life. She went to college, so I went to college. She moved away from her family for greater opportunities, so I knew it was OK to move away too. She pledged a sorority so I pledged. As you can see she has a very positive impact in my life. To my dismay, I learned that my Auntie, in all of her awesomeness, had been carrying words such as buckteeth and knot knees from her past with her. It wasn’t until God helped her venture out from her small community and enlarged her scope to see that there were bigger problems in the world other than hurtful words that were used against her. She told me that God made her feel like the apple of his eye and beautiful.
Woman vs. Men and Self-Esteem
When I think of self esteem and self-worth I automatically think about women. Men are stereotyped to be macho, proud, and confident. So I picked the most confident male I know, Darryl, to interview. Darryl is the type of person who will walk into a room and make everyone laugh and want to be friends with him. He speaks to all types of audiences about various subjects and seems to be accepted by many. He was the student body president of every school he attended and I think that he should teach a class on confidence. My perception of Darryl was a little different than who Darryl really is. After talking to him more I have learned that he too has had self esteem issues and words from his past continue to haunt him. Words like “Uncle Tom” still sting a little and affects him. Even someone like Darryl in the midst of doing positive things can be brought down by such words. Knowing that there is someone greater than the person who is criticizing him is what Darryl says helps him with his self-worth. In Exodus, Moses is less confident about his speech which is slow. Exodus 4:10-12 (NIV), “Moses said to the LORD, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’” God simply steps in when we acknowledge that we are not good enough to accomplish that which God has called us to do without his assistance.
Christianity and Self Esteem
I called up one of my friends, Fatimah, who is very beautiful and a talented graduate student. I asked her her views of her self-worth. I think Fatimah is the most poetic, eclectic, and funny person I know. She reminds me of a modern day neo soul hippie who is always making me think about something “deep” or sending me links to poems and quotes and always wears a flower in her hair. I think of her as strong minded, yet she still deals with words from her past that to this day make her feel unaccepted, ridiculed and helpless. Listening to her story about how she converted from Islam to Christianity while in college, and the first sign of God in her life, I understood that was when he freed her from the hurtful words from her past. Fatimah says she felt weak before God showed her her worth and that she grew in him to believe that she was bigger than any of the hurtful words that were used against her. I have to agree with her and what she says rang true to me.
Pastor Cori brought something to my attention along these same lines. Pastor Cori pointed out 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NIV), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we’re experiencing God’s recreation of the fallen creation. With Christ comes the opportunity to be recreated and with recreation comes new confidence in God and in ourselves.
My Truth Is Amazing
I have this thing where I always tell people and myself “I don’t have to lie, my truth is amazing.” The enemy wants to steal our confidence to make us feel worthless and something that God has not proclaimed us to be. Lies come in hurtful words that we sometimes believe and become. The good news that John 14:6 tells us is that God is the truth and the light and he is amazing and is all mine! So we don’t have to listen to the lies because it is our God who is our truth and we are amazing! When I think about me and my smile and my insecurities, I realize that God has been there to help me get over it. In 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV) it says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 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.” Not only did God have to remind me in his Word that it’s not all about outward appearances but he knows me so well he did even more, he made it very clear to me. Since that 6th grade insult, my smile has been the most complimented of my features and I’m sure it’s God’s way of reminding me to rely on him and not on the words of others – good or bad. God has reached out to me through scripture and people and I’m so thankful that he is fading those hurtful words from my memory.
It is so easy to tell someone to not let words hurt, when words can often hurt more than physical pain. Along with telling myself that “my truth is amazing” I have three things that I do when I try to get over hurtful words that were used towards me and to keep my self esteem in check.
1. Get to know God Even More.
I have to continually strengthen my relationship with God. If I am experiencing hurt that won’t seem to budge, I start reading about God and how amazing he is and about his life. Jesus was criticized, lied on, beaten, and eventually killed, yet he still loves and forgives.
The second way for me to let go of hurt is to forgive people who caused the hurt even if they haven’t apologized. I have to forgive like God has forgiven me.
To bring things full circle it’s important to realize that I am human and I could have hurt someone. I have gone to people who I have caused hurt and apologized. Sometimes we can say hurtful words and are the cause of someone’s pain and low self esteem. We must ask ourselves, “Am I the cause of someones hurt?” These are my personal action steps to heal myself from hurt and repair my self esteem.