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A young child was placed in the center of a dark room filled with a crowd of people. A spotlight was pointed towards the child, so the child could only see the people as shadows. Their number and height made them seem like monsters. Looking into their eyes drudged up a strange, fearful obedience.

“My life would’ve been better had I not given birth you!” a mother shouted from the back, inciting the crowd’s rage.

“You’re uglier than your sister!” another shouted closer to the front.

The child stepped away from them, but each step resulted in the hatred spewing from a new mouth.

“You’re stupid! You’ll never get it right!” one adult shouted. “It would’ve been better to have never tried in the first place! That way, I wouldn’t have had to watch you become such a disappointment!”

Another yelled, “You didn’t deserve the love that I gave you!”

“I left you because you were the problem!” a father screamed. “I didn’t want kids! I didn’t want you!”

Hands covered the ears, but the adults pried them from the face. The child tried to run, but the legs were grabbed and the body lifted. The crowd no longer desired to scream from afar. It was not enough to berate the child. They wanted blood.

Being alone, the child screamed in terror. The adults retaliated by breaking the child’s jaw. Dazed from the blows, the child grew quiet. The adults continued, adding bruises, scars, ripped hair, cuts, and broken bones.

“You were asking to get raped! Just look at how you act!”

“It was you who should’ve died! Why couldn’t you take their place!?”

“I’ll hate you until the day I die and I’ll hate you from hell, too!”

“I hope you never succeed in life!”

“You’re weak! You’re selfish! You’re crazy! You’re unstable!”

“You’ll end up alone in the end! No one will come to save you! You’re not worth saving! No one even likes you!”

Berates and beatings were still unsatisfactory. They had to break the soul. The little one curled up in a fetal position, wanting a better life and better people to be loved by. The words shouted repeated over and over with each gash, cut, or puncture. A wince regurgitated haunting perceptions.

“I hope you lose to everyone.”

“No one likes a broke boy.”

“Why can’t you act like a man?”

“Why couldn’t you have been born a son?”

“I don’t even think of you like that. How could I?”

The words hushed over the room. You’re wondering what you just witnessed. You don’t even realize what you just saw was past tense. Did they really say that? Did they really mean that? Was any of it really necessary? It is the now that has you standing still.

A hand pushes you to the center of the room. Your calves enter the light, and what the child saw at the beginning, you now see: a sea of darkness with small, white circles in the middle of heads glaring at you.

The adults retreat back from the child. One by one, each adult looks you in the eye as they return to shadows. You look around. You see your parents, your friends, your grandparents. You see your teachers, police officers, bosses, gang leaders, preachers, and bullies. You see strangers from places you barely remember. You only remember the words they spoke to you that one time; those horrid statements no one should have to hear. They are the words that repeat in your mind as you read, “I remember that one time, someone said to me…” What was the worst thing someone told you before? That one line that sticks with you like the Twin Towers sticks with New York City even beyond September 11th, 2001.

Nudged again, you step closer to the child covering the face to keep from getting attacked again. The child is small, almost as small as you used to be. The skin is the same as you remember or as you see in photos of yourself. You haven’t even done your hair like that in a while and you still remember the cut, the part, the fade, etc. Before you are able to get a clear look at this child, who looks just like a kid version of you, a bat is shoved into your hand.

The adults in the room stare at you. Have you ever been called disgustingly fat? They point to the mini you hurting and curled up from pain. The poor thing might even be your offspring. Has anyone ever called you stupid or retarded? One adult motions to swing down on the defenseless child! Have you ever been told you’re not good enough!?

What will you do? Will you beat a child to death if they ask you to? Will you endure the sounds of cracking bones, agonizing screeches, or squirts of blood? Will you murder a child without any reason or need!? It is a child that looks like you, maybe five or twelve years old. Maybe it is you! Maybe it was you all along who has been getting beat to death by adults as dark as the darkness that grasps you when the stars and moon cannot be seen!

It is my hope that you would answer, “No.” It is my expectation that you would rather defend the innocent child from the vile adults and give your life to spare the mind that didn’t deserve the consequence. But if we can be honest with ourselves, most of us have been beating that child up every day until it grew into the adult we see in the mirror. Even now, you, a full-grown adult, still uses the words from broken childhoods, divorces, anger, and evil to define who you are.

A mother, working 48-56 hours a week to put food on the table, shelter over the head, and clothes on the body fixes her mouth to say she is a bad mother because she is not home as much as she’d like to be. A father, living in a different home, paying child support, talking with his sons as often as he can, and going to as many games as possible, deems himself a crappy father. How I wish you would wake up from the nightmare.

There is nothing sadder than a beautiful woman who calls herself ugly because her crush said she was ugly. There is nothing more horrifying than a girl who begins acting like a boy because her father said he wanted a son and not a daughter. We have got to let go of the horrid statements we’ve brought along on our journey, and trade them in for more positive statements for the sake of our future.

You may not beat the child in the snippet above, but you sure regurgitate the same filth stated in the quotes from the adults. I have seen it time and time again. Who said you were nothing special and what made them so qualified to say that to you? It is beyond time we start redefining what we have instilled in our minds about who we are.

Words are powerful things. A child growing up to, “I wish you hadn’t ruined my life by being born,” will have a much harder time finding hope in living. A teenager who is constantly judged and criticized instead of accepted and given space to grow will find it harder to be themselves and not people-please as an adult. There are more than enough dissertations about how to raise and discipline children. Even I, with very little experience, could tell you a thing or two about how to talk to kids. But, before we learn how to speak to others, we must learn how to speak to ourselves. It’s time to let things go.

The Bible says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[1] This statement is a commandment with a prerequisite. Therefore, you cannot love your neighbor[2] if you do not love yourself. Some of you read that snippet above and were hurting for that neighbor, the child. You read that imagery and wondered, how can anyone speak to a child like that and beat a child senseless like that? Yet, you won’t ask the same when you tell yourself, “You’re not good enough to do that.”

Some of you will say, “Well a child is innocent. I’m not.” Yet, if God is who He says He is, then you are innocent as well, or did John write his letter outside the will of God?[3] If the child is innocent, so are you innocent for confessing your sins (mistakes) and being forgiven by God. You can’t deem a child the only innocent worthy of protecting. The same must be stated about you when speaking of you.

You were rooting for a fictional child, but won’t even root for yourself in anything that you do. When it is your turn to be protected, you brush off help by saying, “It’s fine. I’m ok. I’m good. Don’t worry about it.” No, worry about it! As that fictional child needed help, so do you. You don’t get to dictate who needs help around you but dismiss those same implications when they are aimed at you. As the child must be helped, so must you be helped.

It’s not, “my mother (father) never wanted to raise me,” it is, “Despite my mother (father), I’m still going to turn out great.” It’s not, “I’m not capable of doing that,” it’s, “Give me some time and I’ll figure it out.” It’s not, “I’m not pretty (rich) enough to be dating him (her),” it’s, “I am someone anyone would be glad to be with.”

We live in a world where people without legs walk. A man without a voice can speak. A woman with ears can hear. A boy who is nearly blind can see. It’s not about if you can do it, but if you’re willing to put in the work to do it. Some of us stop ourselves by accepting logic based off a narrow perception.

Planes weren’t built by people who said, “There’s no way I can fly.” Boats weren’t built by people who said, “I’ll never learn how to swim.” Skyscrapers weren’t built by people who said, “I’m not smart enough to design such a tall building.” My cousin (shameless plug) didn’t build his business ([4] by saying, “I won’t be able to figure out this woodwork.” You get the point. These people were confident in themselves and put in the effort to achieve their dreams and goals. They didn’t talk themselves out of it. They talked themselves into it.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a lie. It is so clearly a lie that we now run towards therapy to undo the trauma stuffed into our thoughts. We need a therapist to help us remove, “You’ll never be worth anything in life.” We need a psychiatrist to destroy, “You’re ugly. You’re pathetic. You’re stupid.” We need a counselor to dismantle, “You aren’t enough for anyone. You’ll never find someone better. You deserve to get cheated on.” This is a trend for a reason. You really need help to stop damaging yourself with your own words. The people who spoke them shouldn’t still have access to you unless you love them and can defend yourself from them enough. People who talk like that to you need to be removed from your life.

Sticks and stones break the bones, but words destroy the spirit. It is no surprise that King Solomon, arguably the wisest human to exist, wrote “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat of its fruits.”[5] I didn’t know its power until I heard it being used by a person to tarnish their own worth.

A friend confided in me that she was struggling in several areas of her life and she hated it because it was affecting her daughter as well. I spoke over her, saying she’d figure it out, she’d make it through, she’s strong, and she can handle it. However, every statement of confidence I tried to provide, she countered with reasons as to why it wasn’t true. She would attack herself with her words to the point of ignoring and rejecting all of the encouragement I tried to provide. For her, those words she used might have been true, but through those words, she was shutting out the possibility that things would actually work out.

If things do not work out, you don’t want the reason to be because you talked yourself out of trying. You want the reason to be because you tried and failed. It is better to reach for healing and elevation than to remain still in misery.

Some of you have all the pieces you need to build the bridge that leads to the better you, but you won’t lift a finger to make it. You’d rather stay in doubt, misery, depression, sorrow, confusion, and pain than overcome all of that and become the better person you’re capable of being. You won’t even ask a person to help you.

As someone who built that bridge and rejected all of the negative words people tried to place on me, you need to see the you that overcame it all. That person will be thankful even if you simply tried. Even doing one thing a week to improve will advance you years ahead. Isn’t that something you want?

I have been called weak, dumb, sensitive, scary, arrogant, egotistical, an (censored)hole, a jerk, pious, fake, and several other derogatory names. I accept none of them. I know who I am in totality and these people do not. The most I can give them is my consideration on the things they’ve said and work on myself in case they are right. However, I do not believe any of them. I believe I am strong, smart, caring, brave, humble, kind, honest, real, and considerate, and I work on expressing these characteristics than the ones others tried to place on me. Will you rework those definitions as I did, or will you believe what everyone says about you?

Let’s learn to say, “You may not have wanted me, but I want me and I’m going to act like it.” Let’s say, “You may want everyone to win against me, but I’m going to beat them regardless.” Let’s confess, “I may not get it all right but I definitely get something right. I’m beautiful, not ugly. The only ugly thing is your attitude me, which I choose to reject. Bye, ashy.” Reject the water attempting to drown you and build the bridge to a better you. It starts with words and ends with a state of being you will be grateful you went for.

I could spend all day reversing these sayings or speaking power over you, but none of that will help if you don’t start doing it for yourself. Watch your language. What you say about you is the second-most important words you need to listen to. The first-most important words are the words of God, as written in the Holy Bible (you knew that was coming). God and you should be responsible for 98% of the words you accept over your life (88% should be God’s words, and I’m being nice about it). That’s right, only 2% should belong to other people, and that 2% should only be from the people who love you and want to see the you that overcame everything else.

Be kind to yourself. You deserve it. Be honest with yourself. You’re worth it. Be encouraging to yourself. Life is hard. Don’t make it harder. Instead of “I can’t” and “I’m not”, start saying “I can” and “I am”. Watch your mouth when you’re talking about you. I love the person you’re speaking about.

With a hug,

Dario Augustus


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