Words are powerful weapons

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Girls," I wrote, "I have lost 13 pounds. I am so excited!"

So began the email I sent my two step-daughters before last Christmas. My "more yogurt and less potato chips" diet had paid off -- I finally would be able to squeeze into the swimsuit that had been hidden away for this very occasion, and everyone in my family would ask my secret when they saw me on the beach for our holidays together in Mexico.

My time with them came and went, and no one commented on my new figure. Probably a collaboration, I told myself. I didn't care. Skinny people don't have to worry about such trivialities.

I returned from Mexico and continued my yogurt diet and was thrilled when I lost three more pounds. My spirits were soaring, and when I returned from a three-day conference where I ate hotel food instead of my healthy staples, I was beside myself seeing another three pounds dropped. Oh, happy days!

I was getting close to my college weight (the one when I first entered in 1968, not the one when I graduated 20 years later) and couldn't wait to share the news with Dave who had somehow failed to notice.

"Honey, this is almost impossible. I've lost 19 pounds in the past 10 weeks! How cool is that?"

Of course, that was his cue to reinforce the obvious, but instead, he walked into the bathroom and stepped onto the scales. Oh, ye of little faith, I thought aloud.

"Uh, Patty, these scales are wrong."

"You're really funny, Dave.

"Patty, I'm not being funny. These scales are wrong, about 20 pounds wrong."

His look reinforced the terror he obviously felt at sharing this devastating news with me.

I immediately ran upstairs and jumped on the other set of scales, the ones my son Andy had given me three Christmases ago -- the ones that count your body fat as well as your weight. (Yes, you read right.) Five times I tried to coax the stupid machine to correct itself, but Dave was right. It was all I could do to drag my fat body down the stairs, grab the broken scales, and shove them in the garage dumpster. Dave was trying not to laugh.

"Yeah, on the laugh scale, this is right up there with a root canal," I told him.

To hear my husband tell the story, I sulked for over a week. He's exaggerating by at least two days. What had gone wrong? My weight loss had all seemed so REAL to me. My mind had believed what I had seen, and I had acted on it. The problem? It was all based on a faulty assumption.

That same week a high school student told me about the damage that gossip had done to her reputation. One little rumor, started by a jealous friend, led to a series of lies and betrayed relationships. Parents refused to allow their sons to date her, and she was constantly maligned in the hallways. I immediately saw the similarities. With gossip, we hear something, believe it, pass it on and somehow feel a little empowered in what we have shared. We don't stop and ask ourselves if we are believing something that has no basis in fact. We just accept it as truth and judge accordingly.

Our words are powerful weapons. "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18)

I am proud to say I finally have put the weight issue behind me (no pun intended), but it definitely served as a harsh reminder of damage done when we act (or speak) before we "weigh" all the facts. A little something to consider.