Thursday, October 28, 2010

Impactful Words


Words are weapons. When used in a certain way, they can be very painful, and that pain can last for many, many years. In 7th grade, while on a family trip to Florida, I took my shirt off at the beach. I was excited to be in the warm Floridian sun and couldn't wait to jump in the rolling waves of the Atlantic. Before I could make it there, my mother asked me a simple question. Jokingly, she said, "Micah, did they just let you out of the concentration camp?"

It took me a moment to process what this meant. I looked down at my body. It was the first time my skin had seen sun in several months, and I was being ravaged by the effects of puberty. My bones simply grew too fast for my muscles to catch up. Maybe I had a few ribs poking through. Maybe I looked like a starved, half zombie. But so what? Should my own mother have ridiculed me in that way? No!

I immediately started doing push ups and consuming massive quantities of ice cream. My eating habits worsened. I needed to get out of the concentration camp!

Finally, my stomach caught up with the rest of my frame, but by that point I couldn't stop eating french fries and Snickers. Now I have a kangaroo pouch sitting on my hips, with an ever expanding roo inside. And all because of a couple of words. (I hope you're loving this mom).

This phrase was so impactful to me because it was the first time my mom had ever ridiculed me. Before that it was always, "Micah you're so smart," (true) or "Micah you are such a handsome young man," (very true) or "Micah you are my favorite child" (the most accurate thing she's ever said).

With less frequency, the sting of certain words becomes much more effective. Say, for instance, the word "idiot". When I first heard my boss use the word, I cringed a little bit. He was talking to someone on the phone and called them an idiot. I couldn't imagine the reaction from the other side. It had to have been infuriating.

That incident was on my first day of work. On my second, I heard him use it again. Only this time it was in reference to his wife. His 'idiot' wife had done something with a bill that he wasn't happy about. I winced a little, but not quite as much as the first time.

And then I heard it again on my third day, and on my fourth, and pretty much every day since then. If anyone does something that he isn't pleased about, they earn the nickname 'idiot'. His dogs are idiots, along with his handyman, and the barista at Starbucks, and the people at Sears, and the phone in his office. It's gotten to the point that I don't hear the word any longer. The only way that I know he's really upset is if he uses "F-ing" in front of "idiot". But even that is losing its impact.

Words are Richard's weapon of choice, but his weapons are getting old and dull from overuse. With just a little restraint, his verbal barbs could be much more effective. Not that I want those selected words or phrases used on me. God knows I don't need any more body issues.

-More to come...

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