Sticks and stones may break my bones…but words may break my spirit.
We all know that the words we speak can have a significant impact. They can build up – confidence, strength, happiness. They can act as a commitment – to a task, to an event, to a person. But words can also tear down. Wreak havoc. Break hearts. Break spirits.
And words cannot be taken back once they are spoken. Putting words back in your mouth is about as easy as putting toothpaste back in the tube after you squeeze it out. Yeah, it doesn’t work out so well!
The power of words is not a new concept. But ED directs words to the most sensitive place possible. Have a little wound of insecurity? ED will gladly direct the salty words of an ill-delivered compliment straight to the open skin. Then, ED will proceed to rub and chafe and scour the wound with the salt laden words until he almost wins. He used to win. Now, he’s not usually so lucky.
But the salt still stings. That ill-delivered compliment plays in my mind over and over…and over. I feel resentment towards the complimentor, although I shouldn’t. She’s not exactly young, and she has some significant medical issues that probably affect how she interacts socially. She doesn’t really “get” eating disorders. But still, her words…her words.
Her words were meant well. She certainly intended good. But when I walked up to her to greet her this morning, the first words out of her mouth were “Ohhhh look at you, you’ve gained weight! You look so good, you were too thin before, but you’ve gained weight, haven’t you?” and on and on.
Yes, what she said was true. And yes, what she said could be encouraging and complimentary. However, it was the delivery. She spoke loudly in a crowd. She made my weight and appearance the heart and focus of our brief conversation. And that’s what got me.
Here is my request (whether your my friend or have friends who deal with an eating disorder):
Feel free to compliment. Please don’t feel like you have to walk around on egg shells (at least around me). But when you do give compliments, think a little about your words before they leave your mouth. Think a little about being tactful with your words. Use words that will build up, not tear down. Use words that will strengthen a spirit, not break it.