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Have you heard something that seems so true, so right, you embraced it, believed it to your core? What about words said out of anger or frustration, words that created a label in your mind that you internalized, accepted, and believed in? And later realized it was a stumbling block for your growth and happiness? No matter our age or stature lies hurt. Believing truth brings life, but thinking a lie is true brings brutal agony and defeat.
I was substituting in a first-grade classroom. The reading and writing lesson progressed calmly when a little boy started crying in the back of the room. Not little tears, but huge heart-wrenching sobs. I walked over to him, pausing the teaching, kneeled to his level, and quietly asked, “What is wrong?”
Through his breathless sobbing, my sad friend pointed to the boy sitting in front of him, “He…he….he…gulp…he called me a TURD!” More sobbing.
I sat, observing the magnitude of wounding that a simple word put on this little body. This little heart. In my mind, I try to comprehend his obvious pain. But, for me, the term ‘turd’ doesn’t carry any heavy connotations - in fact, I’ve used the term as a loving retort to my snarky 30-year-old daughter - something she would laugh at and laugh off.
This is not that time. This young boy feels actual pain - he believes that word. He believes what his classmate said to him. He thinks he is a ‘turd,’ or at least, the other classmate sees him as a ‘turd.’
I leaned into his red, wet face and acknowledged his pain.
“I’m so sorry your classmate called you that. Being called a name makes you feel sad, doesn’t it?” His tears continue.
Consoling and empathy alone were not going to calm this boy.
More tears poured down his face as he wailed, “But…but he called me a tuuuuuuurdd!” He seemed inconsolable, unable to move past the diabolical insinuations of that name - that word, ‘turd.’
I again attempted to understand. Then, looking at him with love, I whispered, “I understand how you must feel. I can see your eyes tearing up; your face looks sad. That made you sad, didn’t it?”
He nodded his head, but the tears kept coming. Then, finally, I felt God speak to my heart, tell me that this little boy totally and thoroughly believed that he was, in fact, a ‘turd’ - simply because someone said it out loud to him!
I took a deep, calming breath and said, “We will deal with the name-caller in a minute; right now, I’m worried about you. So let me ask you this…Is that boy, right? Are you a turd?”
This sweet little boy stopped crying mid-sob. I’m pretty sure he’d never been asked this before, and inside, I prayed God would allow me to take this conversation to a healthy resolution. One where parents wouldn't hear a convoluted 6-year-old’s translation where the substitute told him he’s a turd.
So I asked again, “Are you a turd?”
“No?” he whispered. He looked up at me, tears in his eyes and slight confusion.
“No,” I repeated clearly for him. “You are correct. You are not a turd. You are not a turtle; you are not a tunnel or a top” (I see a slight smile on his lips at the alliteration).
“You are a little boy,” I whispered.
He repeated, “I am a little boy.”
Tears continued, but the sobbing subsided.
He’s listening intently, quizzically.
Looking at his sweet eyes, I asked, “Are you kind?”
Through wet eyelashes, he whispered, “Yes, I am.”
I encouraged him, “Let’s say it aloud; I’m a kind little boy.”
Again, he repeated, gaining confidence.
As I saw him gaining control, I started giving him more truthful statements about himself.
I asked, “Can you say, “I’m smart at math?”
He repeated,” I’m smart at math.”
Can you say, “I’m a good friend?”
He repeated, “I’m a good friend.”
We do this a few more times. His tears stopped.
Then I looked at him, eye to eye, making sure he heard me.
With a mischievous grin, I said, “So let me ask you this…Is it true that you are a turd?”
Now he’s grinning like it's a game.
“No, I’m a boy!” he states loudly.
I beamed with pride at his progress.
“Exactly,” I told him. “The truth is, you are a boy! Nothing else matters.”
I continued, “Here’s a little secret. When someone tells you something about yourself, and it’s not true…you don’t have to agree with it. In fact, you don’t have to listen to it. You can just tell them it’s not true and then remind yourself of the truth.
This little boy sat straight up; his eyes displayed understanding, loud and clear.
He shined confidence and joy.
Then he picked up his pencil and started his classwork again; wounds and lies diminished.
As I thought about this interaction later, I realized I had just taught this sweet boy to take his thoughts and those of his classmates captive.
What if we taught ourselves and our kids how to do this?
What if we thought critically about what others say to us and about us?
What if we stopped believing the lies spoken over us in our past and focused on the truth?
Let me ask you a question…
What is that one lie you believe?
The lie might sound like this:
I am lazy.
I am not enough.
I am unlovable.
I am too much.
I am alone.
I am weak.
Whatever it is. Recognize it has burdened you, but you can let it go - dismiss it with the truth.
So repeat after me.
I am not ___________. Say it two more times.
Then say who you are.
I am a friend of Jesus.
I am loved.
I am strong.
I am gentle.
I am a Daughter of the King.
Walk in the truth!
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