When we think of abuse and abusive relationships, we most often think of physical abuse. Most of us never think of verbal abuse. Some of us don’t even know it exists, or what it is. It is more prevalent than I care to admit, and much harder to acknowledge or admit. But often times, words leave bigger scars than physical blows. We all need to be aware that the words that leave our mouths can damage others. Something we may think is no big deal can really destroy a person. A simple statement on our part may, in fact, alter someone’s life. I know in my own marriage hearing things like “are you going to eat that” or “you need to go the gym more” or “she is prettier than you” or “I could go home with any woman here, why would I want to go home with you” did so much damage to my heart and my self-worth. But that doesn’t even compare to what others experience. My friend Karen is just one example. Here is her story.
I am sure most of us have heard the saying “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What a lie! I would take the physical abuse I took from the man who said he loved me over the mental and verbal abuse he dealt out every single day. Why? Bruises heal, but the hateful, hurtful words still linger with me today.
I had been married to this man for 26 years when the final blow came. I look back on that day and wonder what made this day different than the other days, and my only answer is JESUS. It was this day JESUS wanted me to begin to hear His voice loud and clear on who HE says I am. Far too long I listened to the voice of a man who promised to love, honor, and cherish me till death do us part. All along he was slowly killing me with insults on a daily basis, and I didn’t even realize it until after I was on my own with nothing but my thoughts.
Every day, in some way, this man would communicate to me exactly who he thought I was and what he thought about me. I can recite it at any given time. I have it memorized and burned in my heart. It went something like this. “Karen, you are unlovable, unlikeable, mean, evil, hateful, ugly, fat, nasty, b***h.” It may not have been an entire sentence like that, but on a daily basis one or all throughout the day would be communicated. Let’s not forget when he would talk to people, he would often say he wasn’t my friend, I didn’t challenge him intellectually, and he just didn’t like me.
I believed every word of what he spoke. It became my mantra. Without even realizing it, I would look in the mirror and I would see exactly what he said I was. Quite honestly, it is 5 years later and there are times that the play button is hit, and I still believe those words. Ok; more often than not. Why wouldn’t I believe this? The last few years of my marriage I had become isolated and cold. I could see myself shutting down, but didn’t know how to stop it. I couldn’t get away from what he said I was. I even doubted my own ability as a hairstylist. My guests would thank me and tell me they loved their hair, and I would smile and think to myself, they are just being polite.
Let me tell you a little side story before I end. It was the night my marriage finally ended. He had me convinced that I was the one having an affair. He was screaming and yelling at me that he had proof. He wasn’t a man that raised his voice, but talked very quietly and controlled, so I had found that very odd. When I asked him to show me, he became extremely violent. He picked me up by the collar of my shirt and threw me about 6 feet across our bedroom, where my head hit the back of our nightstand and my hip caught the latch of the dog kennel. I was dazed and tried to stand up. It was then that he looked at me with this evil smile and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I am so sorry that I allowed you to make me that angry!” I remember I tried to hit him back and I missed. He then told me to get the “f” out of HIS house. That everything in it belonged to him and I had contributed nothing. That I was a sorry excuse of a woman, and I would die alone. So, as crazy as that is, I left.
I tell you that, to say this. The bruises and the cuts from that night have healed. The words spoken over me still linger today. They might not be as loud, but I still hear them. I still have the occasional pity party of one that wonders why, after 5 years, am I still alone? Was he right? Am I sorry excuse of a woman? No! He is not right! Let me tell you why.
It is not about what he or anyone else says about me that defines who I am. It is who I am in Christ that matters. The only words that I need to hear and meditate on are HIS words. So for those of you who are struggling with who you think you are, let me leave you with who your Creator, the ONE who holds you in the palm of HIS hands says about who you are:
You are a child of GOD! (John 1:12)
You are joint-heir with CHRIST! (Rom 8:17)
You are part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people! (1Peter 2:9)
You are firmly rooted, built up, established in your faith and overflowing in gratitude! (Col 2:7)
You are greatly loved by GOD! (Rom 1:7, Eph 2:4, & Col 3:12)
You are the apple of HIS eye! (Deut 32:10)
You are a new creature in Christ! (2Cor 5:17)
You have been chosen of God, and you are holy and beloved! (Col 3:12)
God loves you and has chosen you! (1Thess 1:4)
Let me encourage you; meditate on these. Bury them deep in your heart, because what we think on, we become. I have come to realize that what happened to me yesterday is my past and cannot be changed. What happens tomorrow is my future, and that is where GOD’s hope and plan for my life lies. HE promises to keep us in perfect peace if we trust in HIM and keep our thoughts fixed on HIM.
Ultimately, this IS who we are! His beloved! For me that is really all I need!
Blessings my friends,