Standing next to me in front of the full-length mirror on the wall, she stared from my reflection to my body. I'd wandered into her room to get a glimpse of an outfit I'd put on. Did it make me look good enough to go out in public? It often took me many tries with many changes of clothing to feel I was worthy enough to be a part of the outside world. Even then I frequently fled back into the house to hide in the basement, cry, and lament my unworthiness. Teenage angst over my appearance was hard enough. Daily doses of outright cruelty were another, more sinister, component of my life that made coping almost insurmountable.
Eyeing me up and down from head to toe and back again, with a shrug of her shoulders she issued her judgment: my legs were okay. After countless edicts over many years -- her blade-sharp opinions on my appearance and intellect -- I actually felt a trickle of gratitude. At least she thought there was one small thing right about me.
Here usual pronouncements were scathing: I was too ugly, too stupid, too worthless to matter to her -- to anyone. Commonly, she asserted, I should never even have been born. She made plain I would never be beautiful like others in the family. Never. That she thought my legs were okay -- not too offensively fat or ugly -- was a relief.
Now, in my adult life, I've tried and tried to remember something -- anything -- else that female member of my family said that was positive about my body. I don't remember anything besides what she said that day. That one single day. That one single comment made when we were alone.
My legs were okay.
The rest, the public persona she carefully maintained, doesn't count to me. Doesn't count to my heart, to my soul, to basic common sense, and to my belief of that which is right and good and true. How can you profess out loud to others that you love a child, and openly praise them in public, but then minutes later -- when you're all alone with that child and no one else is around to hear your words --
cynically berate them for their worthlessness and yet still expect to be believed?
What is truth?
To me it is this: those we love, those who should love us, and those we barely know or don't know at all can use their words and actions to cut us to the core. They don't have to have complete disdain or hatred for us to do irreparable damage to our emotions -- but only if we allow them to. You see bullies -- whether it be someone who calls names, tells lies, makes cruel judgments or pronouncements about our worth -- are just cowards with an attitude. They are so afraid of their own deficits or perceived failures, so totally unable to deal with the idea that others might judge and condemn them, that they are compelled to shift attention away from themselves. Shift blame and guilt and shame onto someone else and attempt to make them out to be so horrid they themselves don't have to suffer any scorn for how worthless they feel they really are.
Over decades, I came to resent the woman who tormented me with her own demons during my growing up years. I wanted to hate her, I really did. But I couldn't. Because there's another precious truth I learned: just like circumstances -- illness, death, poverty, or fear and heartache of any kind -- mean people can either make us or break us. Our hearts can turn cold. We can choose to abandon hope. Choose for ourselves become bullies. Or . . . we can learn what we're really made of. Learn what kind of people we truly want to be.
Every January 1 as I look toward goals I want to pursue for the year, I think of being whole. Having known what it is to allow myself to be fragmented into shards by the words and actions of others, being whole is always my most important aspiration. I refocus and remember whose I really am. Who truly knows my heart. Who has my best interests in mind in His plans for me. Who loves me whether my legs or any part of my body is, by mere mortal standards, okay or not.
We can know Him if we try. We can know of His love for us. Though our mortal minds and emotions may be fragmented, only He can make us whole.
Whether we are seeking for the first time to feel confirmation of our divine identity or if our knowledge of our eternal nature has somehow been weakened or lost, we can determine today to take whatever time necessary to know the truth. To know truth of His existence -- and to know the truth of our real worth. No matter our circumstances, we can receive, or have strengthened, a sure testimony that we are God's own beloved and cherished spiritual offspring.
If, like I have, you consider yourself to somehow be less than others or an outsider, earnestly seek to discover God's plan, purpose, and love for you.
Not discerning for a certainly your divine identity and role is, in itself, a choice.
This year -- today -- choose to become acquainted with your true potential. God wants to you to be whole; to know and feel your worth. To know and feel peace and the power of His love.
I won't lie to you.
It takes work to know God.
But you can. And you can be whole. He will help you.