My mom would oftentimes talk aloud to herself, as many of us do. Personally, I like to speak reminders for myself, in hopes of remembering something important, or say something quippy, because although there is no one else to hear it, I find it too funny not to express.
While these examples may be relatable, I don’t recall my mom doing either of them; I only remember her saying mean things to herself. I remember her audibly belittling herself, as if she had no value to the world, to our family, or to me, because of a silly mistake she had made.
“You’re so stupid, Dorothy. Why did you do that?”
“You can’t do anything right, can you?”
While she did some big things wrong, like raise my brother and I in a pseudo-Christian cult, she also did a lot of things well. She had an excellent work ethic; upon retirement, her position was so extensive that it had to be broken up among several different people. Her cooking I sadly took for granted; though my brother holds that Hormel brand chili is better, I highly disagree, and we both know her homemade waffles are the best. Not all of us were raised on home-cooking like I was, the kind of meals made with love and by request, when possible. My husband’s mother, God bless her, microwaved everything. The poor man didn’t think he liked bacon until he married me; can you imagine!
Oh, and she would tickle my back or rub my feet until I was over it, which took this physical touch girl a very long time. I remember her hands would pause or take to the the air when she got talking, instead of staying on task. I would wiggle my feet or nudge her as a reminder to keep tickling or rubbing. And she did. My dad was right that I was spoiled, but not with things or with getting my way all the time. I was spoiled with loving gestures like this from her. She beautifully modeled so many precious aspects of motherhood. Her love for me was deep, of that I have no doubt.
My dad didn’t recognize and appreciate the incredible woman devoted to him. He cut her down for every single detail that wasn’t to his particular taste or unfounded standard. I don’t say this from lack of love for him, because I do love him. I say it because it’s true. His opinion or preference was always “right” and failing to innately be on the same page rendered the other person inferior, and this other person needed to be aware of their inferiority so they could learn for the next time. He verbally wore on her, picking up where her depressing upbringing and heartbreaking first marriage had left off.
But here’s the really special secret, one that she and I share. Lean in, and I’ll whisper it to you: no one ever succeeded in fully suffocating her spunk. Even a lifetime of eating from a buffet of abuse could not fully take her down. Isn’t that incredible?
She was still goofy, in her wackadoodle way. I have the joy of seeing the beauty of her soul in my son’s facial expressions and I fall in love with them both all over again.
She was still a rule breaker, and would let me sneak into bed with her to snuggle after the house had gone dark. She could have gotten into big trouble for that.
She was still a fighter, once throwing water in my dad’s face when he purposefully stepped on her foot. While neither of us support either such actions, that was great. The memory makes me laugh from a mix of residual shock and triumph.
Words wound. Deeply. And the words she had heard too many times, without question, had worn on her, but they never took her out of the ring.
In my life, I have heard a lot of words, too. I have a guide for which ones are true, though, and which ones are an effort to suffocate my own spunk or puff me up toward sinful temptation. I know that not all good words are true—some are false pride boosters. And not all bad words are inaccurate—some are opportunities for growth. God’s written word in the Bible, in conjunction with discernment, helps me to know which is which; to know what to take, what to leave, and what to adamantly refute. I’m so incredibly grateful to have this guide, because as you likely know from your own experience, people say some things, my goodness.
Here is something I wish I had said to my mom:
“Mama, all those things that were said about you—they were lies, lies cast to trap you and keep you darting in circles so you weren’t free to share all the goodness you had in you.
You are a beautiful image of God and his approval is the only approval you need. He knows your pain and he knows how to heal it. He can be your trusted safe place, and you can rest, knowing who you are to him, in him, and for him.
I forgive you.”
Call to Action:
Words spoken to and about others’ identity are powerful. Next time you make a claim about your or someone else’s identity, pause to critically evaluate whether or not those words are spoken in truth and love.
Will you please join me today in reminding someone of their goodness? They may be desperate to be told.