Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words….

Virtually everyone who can read that headline can finish that sentence.

Passionate. Animated. Glowing.

These are the words I would use to describe the young mom as I visited with her during parts of our conversation.

Defeated. Sluggish. Sad. These are words I would use to describe the very same lady during other parts of our conversation.

We’ve met a couple of times before to talk about her passion.

She is taking steps to make that passion come to life. Her passion will make a dramatic difference in the lives of others.

When she speaks of that passion she is, of course, passionate, animated, and glowing.

Her face lights up. She looks you directly in the eye. She sees herself operating in that passion.

But then, doubt comes in. It doesn’t creep in slowly. It overtakes her like a bottle of pop shaken hard and then immediately opened.

Her shoulders slump. Her gaze moves elsewhere. The glow is gone.

She begins to voice her doubts.

“What if it doesn’t work? I just want to know that the outcome is going to be what I want it to be! What if somebody else could do it better?”

“Sometimes it’s just easier living in the known world of frustration and failure than to venture out into the unknown where it might get worse.”

That last sentence is a paraphrase but a pretty accurate one of what she said.

I don’t know the age of this young woman but I would guess she is somewhere between 30 and 35.

The mindset she has about stepping out is one that has been built over the course of her life. It took a while to get here so it’s going to take a while to get out.

When you read the headline I’m sure many of you, in your mind, completed the old phrase, “will never hurt me.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

When I asked her about messages she received growing up that have helped create this mindset she had a quick response.

“I remember being picked to do a solo in high school. When I told my mom she said to me, “Just remember, there is always someone better.”

“Was that the only time she said that to you,” I asked.

“No, I heard that often,” she replied softly.

She went on to tell me about another young lady she admires who is in the same arena in which she is wanting to venture.

“She’s so much better than me so why would anyone want to come to me when they can go to her?”

A message from her past that comes to haunt her.

Those aren’t sticks. Those aren’t stones. Those are words that have hurt her and continue to hurt her.

By her own admission she says those words of “there is always someone better” has been the resounding voice that has shaped her life.

Please understand. This is not about laying blame on her mother. Likely, her mother heard a similar phrase from her mother or someone important in her life.

As a parent of two daughters, I’m sure my voice rings in their head with some of the things I said to them. I pray they have the grace to forgive me and not go broke in therapy!

I believe most parents do the very best they can with what they know. Most parents don’t wake up in the morning and ask themselves, “How can I screw my kid up today?”

I also know that some of you reading this today grew up in homes where you were always affirmed and encouraged and those words have had a positive impact on your life. Realize how blessed you are to not be cursed by the words and the voice in your head.

This post is about learning to recognize and be aware of how the messages we received, and, sometimes continue to receive affect us so that we can begin to take steps to overcome them.

Often, the voice is so strong that it becomes our default. I know this is true more than I care to admit in my own life and I believe it’s true of the young lady who is allowing me to share her story.

Once we begin to recognize the messages and have an awareness of them playing a role in our lives we can begin to do something about them.

We can begin to create new messages that will allow us to step out of the shadow of our past and into the brightness of our future.

What are the messages that you heard growing up or even as an adult that continue to impact you today?

Are you even aware of those messages?

It takes courage to examine those messages and begin to do something about them.

How long will you continue to let the words of your past hurt you before courageously step out of the shadows of those words and into the light of who you were created to be?

Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you!   Dr. Suess

2 Corinthians 5:17


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  • I clearly recall my mother telling me, “Don’t be too good at something because people won’t like you.” In some ways she was right because people are jealous. But the message I got was to underachieve if you want to have friends. It was not a good lesson.