Words. They can make you or break you.
When I was twenty-four, I decided to seek some counseling due to the anxiety that threatened to choke me during social encounters or just as I replayed conversations in my head. I had never been to a counselor or a therapist before and I was scared to death.
I remember walking into this woman’s office. It felt too business-like to be some place where I would seek comfort, but I sat down in the chair in front of her enormous desk. She picked up a pen and asked me a few questions about myself as she quickly scribbled things in her notebook.
I felt even more tense as she “judged” me through her written words. What was she writing!?!
The questions kept coming and I kept talking. And suddenly I was sharing about an experience in the fifth grade that I didn’t realize has such an impact on my life.
Kids can be brutal, especially if you are different or you stick out in any way. Well I was sticking out in a way that most girls had yet to experience, if you can catch my drift. And so the teasing began.
During four square (Have you ever played this game? If you’re up for it, let’s play if we ever meet. I learned a lot of life lessons in those four squares!) on the playground, I encountered the first jeering: “She’s as bouncy as the ball!”
At first the teasing just stemmed from the girls in my class, but it quickly spread to the boys. Someone even had the nerve to say it in the middle of class, loud enough for the teacher to hear. I’d had enough and the waterworks spilled over the dam of my eyelids. Tears streamed down my face as my teacher reacted in what I believe he thought was an appropriate way.
I was called into the classroom at the end of the hallway (that ironically enough I would call my homeroom classroom during student teaching many years later).
First he gathered all of the girls from the class and explained to them, as I stood limply beside him, completely defeated, that every one of them would go through their own changes. That like me, they’d all end up “bouncy” and the teasing needed to stop. He sent us back to class and asked that we send the boys in.
I sat with my head down for the rest of the day.
That encounter in fifth grade scarred me. It left such an impression on my life that even as a twenty-four year old, I was ashamed and constantly anxious of what others thought about me.
But the therapist said something so simple, but so profound that I nearly hugged her. She told me, “Bree, no one is judging you. No one is waiting for you to mess up, or to fail. They’re too wrapped up in what is going on inside of their own heads to pay attention to any of those things that may “stick out” to you.”
“Your words matter. The statements you make to others, the ones that get planted in people and cause something new to grow, that require a little more courage? They matter. There are things that I need my people to say to me in this season of my life, just like there are things my people need me to say to them in their season.”
It was such a simple lesson, but it changed how I viewed the world around me and most importantly, how I viewed myself. When I was certain that my flaws were screaming at others so that they couldn’t really hear my voice, I learned that their own flaws are masking what is imperfect in me.
And so that is why I named my blog The Imperfect Vessel. I have come to recognize that our imperfections are what make us beautiful and so unique.
Words have power. They have the power to wrap you up in chains that threatened to break you. But they also have power to release you from those very same chains. They give you the power to loosen the chains of others.