By Anthony Casperson
The person being interviewed spoke about their negative view of their body. They had been made fun of for their appearance while growing up. And the actions of others had cemented the statement “You’re ugly” in their head. They spoke about how they had been diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder.
This disorder causes a person to believe that they look different than how they really do. While others might look at the person and find no fault in their appearance, the person with the disorder will see a problem that is intolerable. They often even pull out of social situations in fear that others will make fun of them. And those struggling with this disorder don’t like talking about it out of embarrassment.
When the person being interviewed spoke about this, they saw that the interviewer was about to say the same thing that so many other good-natured people say to them: “You’re not ugly. There’s nothing wrong with you.” So, the interviewee stopped them and said that it doesn’t matter what other people say, they will always see themself as ugly.
Watching the interview, I found myself feeling for them, wanting to help them see the truth of how others see them. They needed to see the truth beyond the lie that so easily harms them. But I thought about how I feel when others try to speak truth through the similar, yet different, lies in my own head. My tendency to not believe them, to think myself unworth their kindness. The lie tells me that this is all that their words are: a kindness. “They’re just being nice.”
And the truth looks like the lie.
A few days later, I thought about this some more. And the question came into my head, “Why is it so easy to deny words of truth, even when we know what we believe is the lie?” The person being interviewed and I both (and possibly others reading this) know that there are lies in our head. We know that there’s some disconnect between what our mind perceives and what others see in us. Yet, the lie is so embedded that words just bounce off of it.
Why? What makes the lie so resilient? Why are words of truth not enough to dislodge the false statements about ourselves that we believe?
Some might say that we need to be told the truth multiple times more than the lies that we believe to change our internal monologue. I’ve thought that way for a long time. But the lies persist. We shake our heads, not believing the words of truth. So, can that really be the answer? There must be another.
My mind replayed the interview, remembering that the person being interviewed lit up when they spoke of their spouse. They didn’t understanding how they were so lucky to have a person in their life that saw them differently than other people did. It wasn’t their words (though I’m sure that words have a place in the relationship) that made the person light up, it was their actions. Their spouse stood beside them, showed them love, and proved the truth in wordless beauty.
It made me think about the few times when I most felt the truth through the lies. Those moments when I felt worth someone’s time and energy. And it was never their words that convinced me. Their actions proved the truth. And I couldn’t deny them.
While lies takes the form of words that we tell ourselves, and sometimes the words spoken by others, it’s the actions of others (their leaving us behind, their disregarding us, their laughter, the looks in their eyes, whatever else) that cause the permanence of the lie. Their words add to the actions, but words alone can be denied. Actions less so.
If it’s true of the lies, why do we not think about this with the truth? Words of truth can be denied, but the actions of love can topple lies.
In James 2, the author speaks of the dead faith of one who tells a poorly clothed and hungry person to be warm and filled, but does nothing. Words alone leave us dead inside even as others die around us. It’s action that breathes life not only into the one being helped, but the one helping as well.
And if you look at the typical word for “encourage” used in the bible when it tells followers of Jesus to encourage one another (such as 1 Thess. 5:11), it’s a word that means “to call beside.” It’s less about the words spoken, and more about mutual support. We walk the path together. It’s the action of those who identify with another. And that action speaks volumes more than words alone.
If you struggle with the lies in your head, there are people (sometimes few and far between) who live the truth rather than merely speak it into our lives. Let them into your life. The truth can topple the lies, if we let it.
And for all of us, regardless of the struggles we face, when we come across others who struggle with lies in their head, let’s not just say the same old thing, sounding like those who merely seek to placate. Let’s live the truth, act in love, and stand beside them until the truth finally tears down the lie.