When I was in middle school I was bullied by a group of girls. These girls would torment, tease and embarrass me daily. And they would up their antics if boys were around. They were older than me so I only saw them at lunch, before and after school. But it got so bad that I stopped eating lunch altogether in order to avoid running into these girls in the cafeteria.
They made fun of my crooked teeth calling me “Buckey.” There was a cartoon out back then called Capt Buckey O’Hare. When they saw me they would sing the cartoon song and everyone would laugh. I tried ignoring them but it didn’t help. And as hard I tried to keep an unbothered face, it was tearing me up inside.
I began internalizing the taunts and actually started covering up my smile so that no one would see my teeth. If I smiled, I would pull my top lip over my teeth so that you couldn’t see them, and if I laughed I would cover my mouth with my hand.
About a year later, I was walking down the hallway at school and I can’t remember what happened but I was really happy about something and as I passed a teacher in the hallway, she said “you have such a beautiful smile.” When she said it, I realized I wasn’t even aware that I was smiling and quickly stopped so my teeth wouldn’t show, but her words had already penetrated my heart.
I kept thinking “she said I have a beautiful smile, how could she think I have a beautiful smile, didn’t she see my teeth?”
Her compliment, her sincere and simple words ministered grace and healing to my fractured and broken self-esteem. It gifted me my smile back. I was humbled to tears remembering this, but I also wondered why God had brought it back to my remembrance, it was like it came out of nowhere.
And then it all made sense.
Over the weekend I ran into an acquaintance, someone I’m just getting to know and when I saw her I thought “she’s so pretty.” Something inside said to tell her, but I quickly talked myself out of it, and opted for a hello and how are you instead. Now I knew why God brought this memory back…it was actually the Holy Spirit nudging me that day to pay that lady a compliment. Who knows why she needed it, but I missed an opportunity to partner with God. I made up my mind not to allow another moment like that to pass me by, especially now remembering how much a compliment ministered to me.
I got another opportunity going through the drive thru at McDonald’s of all places. I placed my order and drove around to pay the cashier at the window. She had a pretty lipstick color on, so without hesitation I told her “I love your lipstick color, it’s so pretty.” She just froze and stared at me. As I began to think I had made a mistake in commenting on her lipstick, she apologized and went on to share that she had set a goal that day to pay a compliment to every person who came through the drive thru and she could not believe that someone had actually paid a compliment to her.
Who knows what that compliment did to her that day, maybe she felt seen, validated that someone had noticed the good she was putting out into the world. I truly believe that we’ll never truly know the impact; good or bad, that our words have on others, but that shouldn’t stop us from using every opportunity that arises to play a small role in a much larger plan that God is unfolding in the life of those we encounter.
Have you had a moment like that where a kind word ministered to you in a deep way? How does the Holy Spirit nudge you to partner with Him in what He’s doing in the lives of others?
Proverbs 16:24 (KJV) “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”