“Marlee, I need my hands. When you’re chunky like your mom and I, you need your hands to get up. That’s just what fat people do.”
Oh, no she did not.
But one look at my daughter’s face confirmed what I already knew: Oh, yes, she did.
An ordinary playdate on an ordinary day, I had high hopes for a new mommy friend for me. (And a potential pre-school bestie for my youngest daughter!) But being called chunky on a first date (of any sort) clearly ranks less than ideal. Someone referring to me as chunky to my daughter, however, reaches next level appalling.
I don’t even say “fat” in front of her. Although I have Mommy conversation-spelled it to my husband–on occasion (“Honey I feel f-a-t and bloaty, I can’t wear that dress today.”) I realize this isn’t really any better (but it has kept “f-a-t” out of her three-year-old vocabulary).
Being the mother of two daughters, the forefront of my every thought is how much I don’t want my issues to be their issues. Especially of the weight/food variety.
I went on my first diet at eight. Followed by a ten-year eating disorder that started at age 11. At 22, I had lost all the baby weight and then some. I was at my “happy weight” and fitness peak. But the way I saw myself was at an all-time low. The rollercoaster continued from there.
These prime examples of exactly what I never want my daughters to face.
But despite whatever issues are “our issues,” there’s one we all share: people and their careless, hurtful words.
I thought back to my pregnancy with my youngest daughter. I was working full time at a nursing home. And apparently being very pregnant and gaining 60 pounds wasn’t enough. I was also VERY swollen (thank you, preeclampsia). “They missed it bad. You have to have at least four babies in there!” “Are you sure that isn’t triplets?!” “You’re pregnant? I thought you had just gotten way fatter!” Every. Single. Day. It was like junior high, stretch marks and hormones rolled into one horrible package.
I wish I had the ability to snap back with some quick-witted quip like Audrey Hepburn does in the movies. I long to be a blend of grace and toughness. But instead, I have two modes: “Pushover who takes way too much” mode or “I have bottled too many emotions and now I’m exploding irrationally” mode.
True to form, when I got called chunky on a playdate, I did the classic me thing to do. Much like my response to the pregnancy insults. I gave a fake, forced laugh, stayed 15 more minutes and made an excuse to leave. Pretend it doesn’t hurt. Stuff the feelings way down deep. Carry around secret offense. And repeat.
So, what’s a girl to do with someone else’s careless words? Especially when so many of us have little eyes that are always watching and learning from our reactions?
Maybe we can find our answer in James 1:19 “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” And in being slow to respond we can take a prayer pause.
I’ve been trying something a little different in my own life. Each time hurtful words find their way to my ears, I pause before I ever open my mouth to respond. I say a prayer that goes something like, “God, I’m asking you to let these words have no effect on my thoughts, my heart, my mood or my day. Take the sting out of these words. Please let them carry no weight in my life. Show me how to let them go.” That’s my way of laying it down.
And those words we want to say in a moment of hurt? Our regrettable responses that are spoken out of pain? Prayer pauses have a funny way of sidestepping the words we would probably have to apologize for later.
A Change of Perspective
My daughter walked in while I was watching Jaws the other day. I thought she was still napping but she was watching from the hallway. When I noticed her, I quickly snapped off the TV. Her sweet face looked so deep in thought as she said the most unexpected thing (with complete sincerity): “That poor little shark. He’s just very hungry!” I thought about my daughter’s words and what a funny thing perspective is.
Maybe our real need is not for someone else to change, but for our perspective to change.
Rather than writing off a potential friend (which I’m far too quick to do) for saying something rude, maybe I needed to shift my perception. Instead of jumping straight to being offended, I should have considered that her words might have come from a place of her own insecurities. I could have chalked it up to the fact that maybe (like we all do) she had a very human moment and simply said a bonehead thing. Prayer pause again.
God let us see the difference between the times we need to extend grace and try again. And the times we need to extend forgiveness and move on.
Fact of life: people are going to say hurtful things. Sometimes things that are even deliberate and cruel. But WE choose whether those words become baggage that weighs us down or a transforming moment that grows us.
A moment of grace. Because we can learn to lay it down. We can refuse to carry it another moment. Because there is nothing more beautiful than freedom.
Becca Fee-Carter is a wife and mother of 2 amazing daughters. She lives in Kentucky where she enjoys obsessively reading, running 5Ks with her daughters and bargain shopping. She loves Jesus, daily discovering new facets of God’s grace, and the fact that she’s so far from perfect and that is just fine. Read Becca’s posts here.