Herz auf dunklem HolzuntergrundI was just 13 years old when I had my first “boyfriend”. I put it in quotes because it’s laughable to even think a real relationship can form at that age or that we even knew what the terms boyfriend and girlfriend meant. It was innocent and somewhat stupid. It was seemingly just a title. We never held hands. We never kissed. We never even spent time alone. I mean, how can you when you’re 13 and you rely on your mom to drive you to the mall for an afternoon of entertainment with some friends? But it felt special nonetheless. To feel wanted. To be identified as someone’s girlfriend. To my tender 13-year-old heart, it mattered.

Looking back, I never knew how damaging that attempted step into adulthood would be for me. I wish I could grab my 13-year-old self by the shoulders and say, “Stop this. Slow down. Take your time and be a kid. Don’t be in a hurry to grow up.” But I can’t and what happened still lives as a tiny, but permanent scar on my heart.

It was a long hot Southern California summer filled with pool parties, beach trips, backyard bible studies and fun. Just a bunch of junior highers living the high life… and unfortunately just starting to learn to be mean. This boy and I had only been “dating” for a few weeks when the pivotal moment that changed everything happened.

It was a normal Sunday morning, heading into youth group when I was cut off by a mutual friend of the boy. He handed me a small wrapped package and told me to open it. I quickly tore off the paper which revealed a small pin with a smiling walrus figurine. Puzzled, I looked up and asked, “I don’t get it. What is this?” And that’s when he uttered the words that would shatter my heart and echo in my mind for years to come. “{The boy} wants you to have it…. because that’s what he thinks you are.”

A walrus.

I felt the wind escape me as I gasped for breath and ran to the bathroom with my best friend in tow. I kicked open the stall door, chucked the pin into the toilet and flushed it away, collapsing on the floor into a mess of tears. My best friend and I sat together on that dirty bathroom floor, clutching each other tight and weeping.

I didn’t know it then but just a short time later, that very same friend would end up critically ill from an eating disorder and nearly dying. I didn’t know that I would cry out for help on her behalf in order to get someone to intervene and save her life. At that moment, we were just two broken little girls that had just been exposed to the ugly demon of self-doubt and insecurity. A demon that would attempt to tear us down. A demon that would never leave our sides.

Prior to that moment, I had honestly never really had feelings of insecurity. I didn’t think of myself as fat or thin. I was a bit taller than most girls but coming from a family of tall people, I thought nothing of it. I wasn’t particularly pretty, but I wasn’t ugly either. I was just a ganglyย little 13-year-old with messy blond hair and freckled cheeks, on the cusp of puberty.

That moment was pivotal for me (and obviously for my best friend). It was like being slingshot into adulthood before we were ready. It was ugly and painful. The voice of that stupid little 13-year-old messenger turned from a shaky whisper into an all-out roar that would ring in my years well into adulthood.

You’re a walrus.ย 

Fat.

Ugly.

No one wants you.ย 

No one likes you.

No one ever will.

I wish I could say that was the worst of it. The cruelty of those “church” kids still astounds me. Unfortunately, my beautiful best friend took the brunt of it. I can’t even type out the horrible things they called her. Tears roll down my face even now as I think of that time. Somehow everything they said just reinforced the dark lie that had been placed in my mind about myself. A lie that would cast a shadow on my confidence and ride along with me day by day, snatching any bit of joy that came when I looked in the mirror and in a rare moment, felt good about myself.

I share this story as an attempt to share how very dangerous words are. Words cause permanent damage. They truly are weapons when used in the wrong hands. I’m not sure if that stupid junior high boy ever thinks about that moment or even realized how truly horrible that simple act was, but I think about it all the time. I wish I could stop thinking about it. I wish I could erase that moment from my history and erase it for my best friend as well. But words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. Once they are spoken into life, they cannot be killed, and instead often become the seeds for other thoughts to bloom and grow.

My greatest worry and greatest hope is to raise my boys differently. To teach them to speak life into people. To teach them not to fall into the pressure of the world to “look cool” or to step on others in order to feel better about themselves. Most importantly, to treat women with respect and to offer them kindness and protection. May we will start a counter-cultural movement and use our words wisely and as tools to build each other up, rather than weapons to knock each other down.

I am still on my journey to gain back my self worth and confidence. I have found the best medicine for the scar on my heart is to speak words of truth into my life. To read words of truth. To surround myself with people who believe in speaking that truth and love into each other.

I found a photo of myself earlier this week. I think I was about 13. In it, I look tall, and much leaner than I remember. My shiny blond hair is wild and dancing around my face. I still have the freckles of youth and bright, blue eyes. I have no makeup on and somewhat crooked teeth. For the first time in any time that I can even recall, I looked at that photo and thought I was beautiful. That I am beautiful. And that no words can take that from me.

 

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2 thoughts on “When Words Become Weapons

  1. Amy says:

    And you ARE beautiful!! On the inside AND outside!! And I love you dearly!!

    1. jennmariec says:

      Thank you dear friend. Love you too!

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