Featured Life Wellness

Names will always hurt me

I teach tiny children for a living. Every day, I deal with children who say mean things to one another. It works like this: I’m usually greeted with a teary-eyed, “Miss Bast, he hurt my feelings.” Next, I’ll pull both children aside and talk about what happened. I ask the name-caller to look at the child he hurt. The name-caller is usually able to articulate why the other child is sad. We talk about kind words and how mean words hurt our hearts. It doesn’t always happen, because children are fickle, but more often than not I’m able to help the name-caller see how his words affected his classmate.

Sometimes though, the name-caller is incessant and irritating. No matter how many conversations I have with him, he fails to see that his actions have consequences. That’s when I look the teary child in the eye and say, “Honey, just ignore his words and they won’t hurt you anymore.” In essence, I tell the child to disregard the hurt.

I’ve only recently realized how very wrong I am to suggest this.

When I look at my own life, I can pick out all of the times people said hurtful things. I didn’t ignore it. I couldn’t ignore it. Those words got to my heart, and in so many ways, I’m the teary-eyed child running to someone to tell them that my heart hurts. I try to brush it off. I try to move on. But sometimes words stick.

So in an effort to “be strong,” I put on a brave face. I don’t let the unkind words in. I don’t let anything people say touch me. I can live my life however I want to live my life, and no one can tell me anything different. I am woman, hear me roar (or something like that).

But in an effort to ignore all of the bad, I’ve done the same with the good. I’ve boxed up my heart entirely, so nothing can get in. I don’t let the bad through – but I don’t let the good through either. My heart is hardened to everything around me.

A child in a co-worker’s class was having a rough morning. Classmates were being mean, and as a result, he spent about half an hour whimpering and crying. Before he went out for recess, his teacher stopped him. “The words they said aren’t true. I’m putting a big invisible shield all around you. When people say mean things, they bounce right off and can’t hurt you. Those words aren’t true. I’m putting this shield on you to protect you.”

There’s a difference between ignorance and protection. Ignorance makes us turn our eyes from the things we mustn’t ignore. It blurs our vision and hardens our hearts. It dismisses pain and joy. When we choose ignorance, we turn our backs on reality.

Protection, on the other hand, heightens your awareness. It opens your eyes. When you allow yourself to be protected, it inevitably makes you aware of the dangers you’re escaping in the midst of battle. It leaves your heart soft behind the heavy shield. It leaves room for tenderness.

Shields are used in battle. Ignorance is retreat. Shields are the tools of warriors. Ignorance is the course of cowards.

Next time I will look that teary-eyed child in the face and say, “I’m sorry he said those mean things to you. Sometimes people say things that aren’t true, and they hurt. I care for you. I’m here to protect you. You are safe.”

“This God – his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” 2 Samuel 22:31

Flickr photo by dok1.