When Words Hurt

What if your bucket list included owning beautiful shoes–just one pair– of beautiful, well-fitting shoes? Today I’m sharing a powerful post from my friend, Dr. Michelle Bengtson, about when words hurt. Can I assure you that this is a must read? Many of us bear the scars of carelessly strewn words that have changed the way we look at our bodies. But, Michelle’s story will move you. I promise. 

*** 

Children don’t know the impact of their words – they just treat others the way they’ve learned from others.

As an adult who has been wounded by the words of others since early childhood, I probably err on the side of not saying enough.

Only three years old when stricken with an undiagnosable and life threatening illness, I was left to deal with the physical and emotional ramifications the rest of my life. What doctors could only now hypothesize was “like” polio or Reye’s syndrome, left me of very petite height and with a physical deformed leg and foot. My feet two different sizes: one a normal woman’s size and shape, and the other a little girl’s size and deformed like the Asian feet that were bound in order to remain small but very much disfigured.

Perhaps peers didn’t know any better, or maybe they did. It didn’t matter either way – words still wound. Their taunts, jeers, and name calling served to solidify the lying whispers of the enemy: “You’re ugly,” “People won’t like you because you’re ‘different,’” “You aren’t as good as everyone else,” or “Since you aren’t perfect, you’re worthless.”

I didn’t know I was any different from my normally formed and able-bodied peers until they and the enemy of my soul painfully pointed it out. Then there was no going back. From then on, all I knew was that I was “less than” everyone else.

We can perpetuate the cliché “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” but that doesn’t make it true. Names did hurt and still do. “Peg leg,” “Slow poke,” and “Shorty” wounded my heart making me wonder as a child why a loving God would let such a thing happen to an innocent child He supposedly loved.

Even recently an adult who “should” know better, commented on one of my social media posts that I resembled a midget! Really?!

Being “different” affected the way I viewed myself in many ways. I never wanted to be the center of attention at the risk of my flaws becoming the focus. As a child, I believed the enemy when he warned “Others can’t and won’t love you unless you’re perfect, so surely God won’t either.” Unknowingly, this started a cycle of becoming driven and very much a perfectionist in my efforts to become acceptable and lovable in God’s sight. Until I couldn’t…

Afflicted by a devastating illness in adulthood that required me to be bed-ridden and sustained on IV-nutrition and hydration, I could no longer be the “go-getter” I had become. In those devastating days of illness, I could not “do” or “be” and was forced to “rest”—not something this driven work-a-holic knew how to do. I found myself at the end of myself; my identity was stripped away.

As I cried out to God like I had never done before, a change started taking place. He showed me that He never loved me because of what I had done for Him. He simply loved Me. Me. Such a profound revelation for this “do-er” who could no longer do.

As my health slowly returned and insurance deductibles met, I underwent reconstructive foot surgery. My hopes were high for a new foot. A beautiful foot. A “normal” foot.

That was not to be. When the surgeon allowed me to ditch the surgical boot and return to wearing my regular shoes, I spent hours one Sunday morning prior to church trying on every pair of shoes in my closet only to find that not a single shoe fit my foot. The surgery left me unable to even wear the few shoes I had been able to find in both sizes and served as a daily reminder of my flaws and inadequacies.

Not one to ever really express my anger to God (I had read the book of Job – I knew how God responded to Job when Job asked “Why?”), I had never felt safe expressing to God my hurt and anger for my disfigurement. Until that day. That day I cried years’ worth of tears in despair and frustration.

As my sobs slowed to a stream of tears flowing down my cheek, an image was seared in my heart of Cinderella as she lost her second shoe running from the palace at midnight. Seeking God about this image, I sensed Him saying, “You are not your deformity. What I see is your heart, which is beautiful.” The enemy was the one who taught me I wasn’t beautiful–but that didn’t line up with God’s truth.

At a friend’s recent “Bucket List” party, she encouraged us to dream about our deepest heart’s desires. We each wrote down 10 things that would make this the best year ever if they came true: some jotted down dreams of travel, others shared desires for creative pursuits to flourish, and others longed for a more simplified life. Initially my list included hopes for deeper relationships, vocational pursuits, and ministry endeavors.

We then shared our heart’s greatest desire: number one from our list of ten. When my turn came, I couldn’t see through the tears that flowed from the depths of my heart down my cheek and onto my page. Nothing on my list mattered anymore, as the Holy Spirit seemed to whisper, “Share your deepest desire – give a voice to it. I know it anyway, so acknowledge it. There’s nothing wrong with the desire of your heart except that you’ve given up on it.”

I had given up on it. . . so much so that it didn’t even register in my mind as a consideration for my list. There would be no forgetting it now, as the pain of unfulfilled desires lodged a knot in my throat. Barely above a whisper, I made my heart’s desire known to this group of onlookers: “Beautiful Shoes.”

None of them understood, so I explained. I exposed not only my deepest desire, but also my biggest insecurity—the one I always tried to cover up and hide. They didn’t laugh or stare, instead they prayed and confirmed they wanted it for me too.

That Sunday after surgery on my closet floor, when my heart felt broken and despairing, the Lord shared with me the verse,

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Isaiah 52:7 NIV

The Lord reminded me of that verse through the encouraging words of one woman at that party. The thing that the enemy used all those years to condemn me to others and myself, was the very thing God would use to teach me in whom my security must rest.

One day I will wear beautiful shoes! And more importantly, one day I will dance with my Father God free from any shame and insecurity.


IMG_8702Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She blogs regularly on her own site: www.DrMichelleBengtson.com.  Or, follow her on Facebook or on Twitter.

 

 

 

14 Comments
  • Mike
    September 30, 2015

    Words are only hurtful if you let them be so. The only person that can choose whether or not to let something someone said affect you is yourself. If you let words have power over you you have already lost the mental battle because you are mentally too weak to simply ignore or refuse to put meaning to what people might say about you. At the end of the day they are just simple words that have no meaning unless you give them meaning. Words don’t hurt me because I don’t let them, and I know that when someone tries to put me down with words I have already bested or mentally defeated that person by rising above whatever they try to say. I don’t even have to respond. Remember that old saying? “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” They forgot to say, “…words will never hurt me, because I won’t let them. I am better than anything offensive anyone can say about me.”

  • DaLynn McCoy
    May 16, 2015

    What a beautiful post -t hanks for sharing your heart! I do always like to share one truth with people who’ve asked the kinds of questions you have here, even if it was a long time ago. Please know, GOD is not the author of any sickness, any disease, or any death. This world is fallen and is overtaken by sin, and that manifests as “death” in many forms and for reasons we don’t yet understand. It’s not God’s will for you, and I do pray that you continue to take encouragement from what the Holy Spirit has been speaking to you. What you’ve done here speaks towards your move towards your heart healing, and letting God have control of even this. Bless you, sister! Thanks for linking up with Christian Fellowship Friday!

  • Jenn
    March 17, 2015

    Oh, Dr Michelle, what a beautiful post. Children, and people in general, can be so heartless and clueless!
    Thank you for sharing this, and I am praying for you, my beautiful friend!

    • Dr. Michelle Bengtson
      March 19, 2015

      Jenn, knowing you are praying blesses my spirit. I pray that God will continue to open more doors for me to share hope and help through His truth. For truly, He IS doing a new thing, and that brings great Joy! Blessings to you!!

  • Trina
    March 16, 2015

    Michelle, what a wonderful post. About half way through I found myself in tears. God is bringing to light some of the words I have believed to be true, which are not. He is also showing me where I’m believing lies about Him. What a blessing that God has given us His words of truth to combat and overcome all the lies and mistruths we hear. You are a blessing!! Thank you for being vulnerable and an encouragement in my own walk!

    • Dr. Michelle Bengtson
      March 19, 2015

      Trina,
      You may have just provided a real life example of what it means when God says He will bring beauty from ashes. Tears stroll down my cheek in gratitude that God would use my ashes to be encouragement to another. There is no joy that compares to that. Listen to what He is telling you Dear One. Listen to His truth. He says you are beautiful, you are wonderful, you are highly favored, you are an overcomer, you are the apple of His eye. If the voices you hear contradict that, then you, like me, have been deceived. Tell the enemy to shut up, because you only have ears to hear your Father’s sweet voice wooing you in your walk with Him. Hope Prevails!

  • Mary Collins
    March 14, 2015

    Ah, how words can hurt. I don’t know where that saying came from but I never agreed with it. You have revealed how strong you are, in spite of the actions of cruel and thoughtless people. Keeping on walking in His strength, my sister.

    • Dr. Michelle Bengtson
      March 15, 2015

      Thank you Sweet Mary. I don’t know where it came from either…I knew even as a child on the playground reciting it to my offenders that it wasn’t true. Words wound deep. But His words always bring life! I pray others will read and hear life in the words I bring.

  • sandraj
    March 13, 2015

    I was touched by your post, and by God’s beautiful answer to you in His word. Words bring life and death and it’s a battlefield filtering out the enemies 24/7 whispers of deception. Thanks for your encouraging words!

    • Dr. Michelle Bengtson
      March 14, 2015

      Sandra, you are so right! The enemy seeks to deceive 24/7. He influences our thoughts and our words. But the only Word that matters is God’s. He is the final authority.

  • Carrie Ann Tripp (@CarrieAnnTripp)
    March 12, 2015

    Michelle,

    What a beautiful reminder. Words leave some of the worst scars in my opinion. We can see bruises and broken bones. We can see the scars from severe burns or cuts. But the scar tissue left by razor-sharp words is hidden deep within ones heart, soul, and mind.

    You will only see my scars if I choose to show them to you, and based on the response of those in the past, I’m probably not going to bare my scars to you. It’s easier to leave them there and just deal with them than to try to defend them.

    Mental and emotional abuse are two of the most misunderstood and easily dismissed types of abuse there are. If we can’t see the effects, they must not exist. You are making things up to get attention, and your life is no where near as bad as those who survive “real” abuse.

    Thank you for posts like these that speak truth and shed light on other types of abuse AND more importantly HEALING from that abuse!

    Thank you for sharing this post on #ThursdayTheologyBlogs! I hope you will become a regular contributor! 🙂

    Carrie Ann

    • Dr. Michelle Bengtson
      March 13, 2015

      Thanks for your encouragement Carrie Ann! The Word says that our words cut sharper than a two-edged sword. You’re so right though, that since we can’t see those scars they don’t get validated. I’m thankful our Heavenly Father sees them, and He defends us, and He loves us scars and all!

  • Joanna Sormunen
    March 12, 2015

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us.
    The words can be so painful, much more than sticks and stones. And they take away the hope and bring despair, and make us forget our dreams.

    • Dr. Michelle Bengtson
      March 13, 2015

      Joanna, yes, words can be so much more painful than sticks and stones. It shows the truth from Scripture that tells us that our words can bring life or death. I’m so grateful that truly, if God is for me, who can be against me? What HE says about us is what is so important. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *