This is not a new topic for me to write about. I have talked about the cruel words that I have received in my life…lots of them…sometimes it seems more than the average person for some reason. And I have talked about how deeply they have wounded me, changed me even.
For a while – and it depends on who was doing the talking – I let the harsh words that have been spoken to me define me; I let them seap into my soul. I feel like I was carrying around this file in my head of all the harsh words said to me – in my marriage, afterwards when I wrote about my marriage, from disapproving people who judged where I ended up in life – and I would pull out that file and look through it more often than I want to admit and I’d rehearse those words, and take them on as capital-t Truth, and I would feel sorry for myself and start to believe those horrible things about myself.
I started to believe deep down that I was an idiot. That I was weak. That I was incompetent. That I was incapable of making a good decision. That my faith was on shaky ground. That I was unable to relate to men. That I was worthy of much, much disapproval.
When someone says something kind or gentle to me, I picture those words in my head as coming to me in the form of a whisper, tender and encouraging:
i am so proud of you
But when someone says something cruel, I picture those words in caps, bolded, large font, with a bunch of exclamation points:
YOU ARE A LYING MORON!!!!!
And so when you’re struggling for words to help define yourself or the situation you find yourself in, and you reach for that file, which words do you think are going to be more easily accessed by your memory? Yep, the harsh ones.
But then somewhere along the way, I sort of had it up to here with what other people were saying to me and about me — the one that put me over the edge was when someone looked at me while I was crying and said callously, “Why do you care if I disapprove of you?”. And I spent about a month replaying that horrible conversation, trying to figure out what I had done so wrong, trying to figure out why I deserved those cruel words, and then I had a decision to make. I had to answer that question of why do I care if that person disapproves of me for myself and I came to this conclusion: I don’t. I need to not care anymore.
And instead I decided to let all of those caustic words fire me up. And I have. It’s occurred to me that it was the cruel words in my primary relationship that have led me to want to advocate for women in abusive marriages; it was a few of my readers’ cruel words that have led me to want to advocate for women being harshly judged through their divorces; and it was a former acquaintance’s cruel words that have led me to want to advocate for better understanding and more grace for these hurting women from the Church.
Something kind of beautiful has happened…I went from being the girl who cared desperately about what other people thought of her to the girl who pretty much couldn’t care less, and I’d actually go to the extent of saying, I hope I tick some people off, because some people are just plain wrong and need to be ticked off. And now I consider myself the poster girl for soldiering through a difficult marriage and for Christian divorce and I’m super okay with that. I want to fight for the beauty of marriage by fighting against abuse in marriage; I want to fight for the power of grace by fighting against the stigma of being divorced; and I want to fight for more grace-filled, non-condemning, non-blaming, abuser-accountability-holding, full-on truly helpful help and support for women who are really hurting. And one way I can do that is to choose my words carefully with those who are hurting, but almost even more so, to know what words to allow into my heart and what words to just let fall to the ground. Because those words just won’t do me any good anymore.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here, or “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.