When Labels Tell You Lies

I met my first boyfriend the summer I turned 18. It was all very romantic, because his eyes were very blue, and that seemed important at the time.

We were working at summer camp together, which is an intense environment, and can cause people to do intense things, like dating someone they’ve only known for two weeks.

Anyway. It was not a healthy relationship, and he hurt me in many ways. I probably hurt him, too. And then it was all over, and I experienced heartbreak for the first time.

I tried again with someone else a couple of years later, and things didn’t go much better. My emotional baggage was piling up so high that by the time I met Ben, it was kinda hard to see clearly, with all that baggage in the way.

But if there was ever someone with limitless patience, kindness and sincerity, it would be Ben, and so we worked things out very nicely.

I don’t really think much about all that stuff from the past anymore. But I’ve been reading a book. It’s a book that explains a lot of the connections between the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects to the body.

It’s a book about how old hurts and heartbreaks, bitterness, unforgiveness, and broken trust can affect us in huge ways if we do not experience healing and restoration.

Now, I have not normally been into all that kind of stuff. I have a wonderful, happy life, and I would never have thought that there was much to restore in my past.

But there’s this: I remember a girl in high school telling me that I had the stupidest laugh she’d ever heard.

I laughed a lot quieter after that.

I remember a friend telling me that instead of singing, I should stick to playing piano.

I sang a lot quieter after that.

I remember the ex-boyfriend telling me I was pretty, and good for looking at, but not much else. He said I wasn’t smart enough, and so he felt we had nothing in common.

So I wrapped my insecurity tightly around me like a robe, and accepted all of those labels.

And even now, after all these years, they still come back. You can bet that I’ll think about them when I laugh or sing, or try to add up everyone’s score during a game, or try to have intellectual discussions with people.

Those labels in my head are saying: “I have a stupid laugh, I can’t sing, and I’m dumb.”

Putting that all out there makes it sound like I’m pretty pathetic. Who actually thinks stuff like that??

More people than you think, I’m guessing.

The weird part is that I don’t really completely believe all that stuff.

But I still remember it. Those words buzz around my head like an annoying fly that I keep brushing away.

And in real life, I would finally get so tired of the buzzing that I would go find the fly swatter, and kill the dumb fly already.

I’m at that point. It is time to get rid of those labels, and those memories.

How do you do that?

Well, this is still a work in progress, but here’s what I’ve figured out so far:

1) Forgive.

Forgiveness can take the sting away. Someone once told me that you make the choice to forgive, and then you say it out loud: “I choose to forgive ____________.” Every time the thought comes back to you, you say it again. And again, and again. And then you pray like crazy.

2) Look at the bigger picture.

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately. All it takes is a little bit of perspective, and some imagination. For the first time, I thought back to that ex-boyfriend, and I tried to imagine what would make a person say something so cruel. And you know what? As an adult, it is so much easier to see a whole different side to that relationship. I can see now how he had so many insecurities just like me, and neither one of us could carry the weight of the other’s burdens. We hurt each other out of our own hurt. He had no idea what he was really doing to me, or how I would allow it to impact me for years after. People often say things they don’t really mean.

3) Replace those labels with words of truth.

God gave me this old laugh of mine, and it makes Him smile when He hears me using it.

God gave me this voice, and it fills His heart with joy when He hears me singing at the top of my lungs.

God gave me this mind, and these abilities, and He rejoices when I use my God-given strengths to bless other people. And who says that adding up a row of numbers is a true measure of intelligence anyway, for crying out loud?!

So, with forgiveness in my heart, and a view of the bigger picture, it is time to step lightly and freely into the beautiful future.