Most of the boys I dated in high school were super smart. I was never able to take the AP classes they had on their schedules. In fact I took two study halls to be able to complete all of the work assigned to me on a daily basis. One of my old beys graduated salutatorian, something I had to spell check because oh my goodness, absolutely. no. idea. One of the other smart boys I dated was looking at Duke and other fine institutions for college while I was praying my SAT scores would land me somewhere…anywhere. The boys I dated grew up to be men who became doctors and lawyers and such. I’ll never forget one night when “Eli” gazed in to my eyes and said he never dreamed he would date a girl as beautiful as me–and I quickly responded I could not believe I would ever date a boy as smart as he. I doubt either of us left very satisfied from this awkward label making session.
Fast-forward to my freshman year of college. I was taking a Psychology class and adored the professor. I sat in the front of the class, took copious amounts of notes, audio recorded his lectures and listened later for further review. The professor was known for only awarding a very minute percentage of A’s each semester. I longed to be one of the students in the upper crust. Mid semester I went to check the post outside his door and in fact was one of the few students who had received an A on my mid-term. This same semester, I had been assessed by the diagnostic teaching clinic at NCSU and was diagnosed with ADD. In sharing this information with my professor, he looked at me blankly across his large mahogany desk and explained someone with my IQ–which was also determined through the testing–had no business receiving the kind of grades I was receiving in his class. Awesome. My average intelligence reared its ugly head again.
We do this…we speak over others. For better or worse, sometimes innocently, we tell people who they are or who they will become. We do it with babies, puppies, teenagers and adults.
To the one month old: “With that red hair, you are going to be a little spit fire aren’t you?”
A typical 2-year old tells his mom “No!” Uncle Joe yells from the other room, “Watch out, he’s gonna be a rebel.”
Your 5 year old son after flashing his adorable smile to your girlfriend, “He’s such a ladies man isn’t he?”
My Kylee was extremely shy as a child. Growing up around Young Life and college folks accentuated her shyness. She had my extroverted and over the top hubby for a dad, and a warm and friendly me for a mom. Though I appreciate the introvert’s plight (being a closet introvert myself) we still desired for her to be a bit less rude when approached by strangers. Unable to really “fix” this at age 3, she was met with playful nicknames like, “Sassy” or “Sassy Pants,” due to her quick and avoidant responses.
Today she is not sassy…she grew up and learned manners; in fact she is simply a thoughtful and lovely introvert.
Thankfully the words did not stick.
But so many do. We speak identity over others…and we hold to words we have not heard for years. I realized today as I prepared to write, ultimately it is our job to speak life (not death) over others. Those boys and my professor were wrong about me. I am no rocket scientist but I have a strong social intelligence and a love for learning that far outweighs my IQ or SAT scores.
I recently read the book Scary Close. Apparently, Donald Miller was so bad and destructive in relationships (particularly with females), he actually spent time at an inpatient treatment facility doing work on this area of his life. But, ironically, before AND after this event in his life, his dear friend (Bob Goff) would say, “Don, I noticed you are good at relationships.” (Scary Close, 12)
On paper these words would seem like an absolute fallacy, but were in fact, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t we want more Bob’s in our life?
I want to be my families’ biggest cheerleader. I want to be my friends and neighbors biggest fans. Believing in and for them. Speaking words of love and encouragement. Words that bring healing…words that give life.
I am your cheerleader too…
Do you have old tapes playing in your head? Destructive words just under the surface? Do you hear voices from long ago whispering you are not good enough, smart enough…words claiming you are a rebel, or bad at relationships? Let’s start today by calling them what they are: lies. Do not let someone else steal your identity. You be you. You are a glorious creation…one of great worth and value. And let’s flip to the other side of this coin; have you accidentally adopted this pattern? Have you become a label-maker? Acknowledge this pattern in your own life was a destructive one–and instead consciously speak love and good things over those you do life with.
Recently I tried it out. It was a bit fumbly but it went like this:
My son said something cruel and berating to his brother. Instead of my more typical pattern of raising my voice and telling him not to be so harsh with his little brother (using my own harsh and unkind words)…I looked him in the eyes and said, “Oh man. That is so not who you are! You are a great big brother who doesn’t tear down…but builds up. We are one another’s biggest fans in this house.”
Not going to claim perfect behavior was adopted after this scenario, but it certainly took my son off guard. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and encouraged him to do the same with his brother.
Don’t be an identity thief or let someone else steal your identity. Today whether you are a bit stuck with old words and labels or if you are the one who has ascribed names to another…make a change. Let your words be filled with kindness, love, encouragement, hope, and life–toward yourself and toward others. The results over the long haul could very well be miraculous.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,
***(thanks Lodi public library for this image)