Tell a girl she is beautiful, she will believe it for a moment. Tell a girl she is ugly, she will believe it for a lifetime.  –Anonymous

Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.

Something mysterious happens in those pre-teen years.  Somewhere between 10 and 14 the whole world turns upside down.  I remember thinking that no one understood me, everyone else was cool, and I was all alone.  Not true, but that’s how I felt.  Don’t most kids go through that?  Everything was so  d e e p  and depressing.  My journals from those days are doom and gloom all the way.  What made it that way?  Why are the middle school years often so dark for so many?

I remember in 7th grade, I had achieved safety patrol status and was stationed on bus patrol with a boy that I thought was quirky and cute.  He was the class clown and well loved by most.  I thought this might be a great opportunity to move up in status and MAYBE I would be someone that he would discover that he liked.  He clowned around as usual and we seemed to get along ok, although nothing earth shattering and romantic ever developed.  But one day I overheard his friends teasing him about spending all that time with me and that he must “love” me and we should be “going together” (the term for becoming boyfriend/girlfriend back in the day).  As he bowed up to defend himself from the teasing, and not knowing (I hope) that I was anywhere nearby, he let out a litany of insults and derogatory comments about me and how he could never–would never ever like someone like me.  This doesn’t even begin to cover all he said, but to give you an idea:

THAT girl?  She has anti-boobs!  Why is she even wearing a bra?  She’s a “crater-chest” (a very sensitive subject to a flat chested, buxom hopeful).  She’s a total dork and will NEVER have a boyfriend.  If she does, she’ll have to wear a bag over her head, ‘cause she us u-g-l-y.  She’ll probably die a spinster, unloved and alone.

….and on and on.

I was broken hearted.  Not because he would never be my boyfriend, but because he crushed my spirit.  He and his friends were the people that I desperately wanted to like me.  He spoke to all the fears that I already had–hating my gangly flat chested body, thinking I was ugly, feeling alone and unloved, wanting a boyfriend like my other friends but not having one.  He and his friends laughed at my expense.  I was the joke.  Do you ever recover from that?  Shortly thereafter, he began talking to me using those phrases.  Putting me down whether his friends were around or not.

Looking back, I see that he was trying to build himself up from an attack by his friends.  After all, aren’t class clowns usually the kids that are hiding a deep hurt or loneliness themselves?   I don’t think I ever completely recovered.  When I have doubts about the way I look, even now his words come back to confirm that I’m not good enough.  When I’m feeling a little lonely, his friends laughing at me echos in my mind..

I’ve moved on.  I know I am loved and I finally grew into a real bra size.  (God does answer prayer.)  My self worth is not set by others.  I am a precious child of God and he gave his one and only son for me.  I am a child of the King and I am loved. Life did not turn out as they predicted. I have an amazing husband who thinks I’m pretty hot and a beautiful daughter with whom I have a great relationship.  I feel blessed, and know that I am.

So I’m looking at my 13 year old daughter and wondering where she is on that topsy turvy scale?  How alone and uncool does she really feel?  Who is the thorn in her side at school?  What words have they said that will remain with her forever?  What is she experiencing now that will impact how she faces life?  And what in the world can I do to help?

We talk often and deliberately work to keep the communication lines open.  She’s in a great school and has great friends.  I already see that her 13 year old life is not like mine was, but she is still a middle schooler.  She still has strong emotions and deep, deep feelings.  I pray that I will not hurt her with my words and that whatever she is going through, she seeks the grace of God to overcome.

I’ll take sticks and stones any day over words.  And I will tell her that she is beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God.