“Poor little rich bitch!” That’s how several adult relatives referred to me. A few others shortened the phrase and simply called me “Bitch”. When the verbal abuse started, I was 5 or 6 years old. I was an innocent child. I did not understand why people that were old enough to be my parents spoke to me with such hate. “What did I do to them?”, I often thought. “And why aren’t they speaking to the other kids this way?”, I wondered. I watched as my mother attempted to protect me, but it didn’t help. It only made it worse. Defeated, she instructed me not to worry about what they were saying about me. I wanted to feel comforted by my mother’s words, but I wasn’t. I was a child and I just didn’t know how not to be hurt by their words.
After several years of verbal abuse, I began to fight back the only way I knew how. I cursed back. For every hurtful word they spoke to me, I had a hurtful reply. All the while, my young heart grew hard and cold. Over time, I began to believe that hurtful words were my only defense in this life.
By the time I became an adult, I had learned many new ways I could use my words to defend myself against anyone that I perceived as a threat. What I didn’t know then was that my hardened heart made it difficult to identify friend from foe. As a result, I attacked people who were not trying to harm me at all. A friend once said to me, “You’re a fighter but sometimes you’re fighting the wrong one”. Ouch!
When I began to read what the Bible says regarding my words, I was challenged by one scripture in particular. Paraphrased it reads, “With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image” (James 3:9-10 Message). It described me. On Sundays, I was in church singing and worshiping, yet throughout the week, I was cursing God’s sons and daughters. I prayed, meditated and completed studies to help me overcome the battle with my mouth. Though I made some progress, anytime I felt disrespected or threatened, I reverted to my old ways.
In confusion, I asked God why was I unable to shake this. The answer was simple. I did not hate it. The Bible states that we must hate sin. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like it, but I didn’t hate it either. I believed I needed to reserve hurtful words to defend myself in case the peaceful approach did not work. It was my Plan B.
God wanted to be my Defender but I was afraid to trust Him. I was afraid that I would be taken advantage of. I was afraid that people would see my kindness as a weakness. I was afraid that those who hurt me would get away with it. And at the root of it all, I was afraid that what those adults had spoken about me was true.
In order to overcome this, I had to know that what they said was not true. Trembling, I recalled me as a little girl being attacked by the hurtful words of the adults. I cried to God as I told Him the pain I felt in those moments. I didn’t hold back anything. I asked if their hurtful words about me were true. And when I was assured that they weren’t, I asked, “What is true? How do you see me, God?” I am His daughter. I am loved. He knows me better than anyone ever will. He calls me by my name. And what’s the meaning of Juwana?…“I know her”.
Now, as I continue to be healed from the verbal abuse, I feel less hurt by the memory of it and I feel less of a need to defend myself. God is my Defender.