Tell me if this has been your story.
You're feeling good and secure and happy, and then some stupid person says some stupid thing that sends you spinning. All of that security disappears, and you spend the rest of the day wondering why you're such an idiot.
You're enjoying a family dinner until your mother-in-law makes a passing comment about your kid's clothes being dirty, and now you feel like a terrible mother.
You're excited about a new project at work until a team member dismisses your favorite idea, and now you have no idea what you're doing and are afraid everyone knows it.
You're joking about your lack of fashion sense until your friend agrees with you, and now you feel like you're a loser and she's embarrassed to be seen together.
Words are powerful, and in the mouths of careless people (which we all are at times), they can wreck you. The Message translation of James 3 says, "It only takes a spark, remember, to set a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of the mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, and send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it."
During my second night in the hospital after I had Annie, I was all the normal things - sore, exhausted, delirious, homesick, and desperate for wine and sushi. My husband went home to be with our boys, and my mom kindly sacrificed a night of sleep to hold my baby so I could sleep in half hour increments like moms do. If she hadn't been there, not only would I not have slept but I would've been subject to the worst nurse ever setting my forest on fire.
The night nurse - let's call her Donna - knew more than everyone, including me, i.e. the actual mother of my baby and of two other children who are still breathing, not starving, and happy. She was in charge of my infant education and treated me like I was the infant, literally quizzing me about how to take a temperature, wipe a bottom, and that I could kill my baby if I let her sleep in my bed.
When Donna had to take blood from Annie's heel, Annie sat in my lap and barely whimpered. Donna, however, said things like, "Man, she does not like to be messed with" and "she's a little troublemaker." I sat on the hospital bed in that creepy mesh underwear, confused and loopy. Was I losing my mind? Annie was practically silent and perfectly still while Donna pricked and messed with her, and this nurse was calling my baby a troublemaker at three in the morning?
For a second, I started to believe Donna. The spark of her words started a small fire, and in my head, I began to classify Annie as trouble. Then Donna left the room, and my wise and wonderful mother immediately said, "You know she's crazy, right?"
My mom, unaffected by raging hormones, was able to see the truth - that Donna was on a power trip and was a stupid person, at least in her time with me. But I was vulnerable and not able to see the power I was giving her words. Without my mom there, I would have believed Donna. I would have internalized what she was saying and left the hospital thinking I had a demon baby who I would probably eventually kill because I didn't know anything.
When we listen to stupid people, it changes how we see the world. When we let their words start a forest fire, we're going to get burned.
Before I met Donna, I was feeling surprisingly awesome. Annie was a sweet little dream, and I was excited to go home and start the madness of raising three kids. Then Donna made me feel small in less than two sentences, and I immediately dropped from a solid 8 to an depressed 3. I gave her the power.
Should I have turned into an emotional Iron Man, putting on armor to keep her from hurting me? Not really. We can't have relationships with people whom we don't let in, but the sooner we acknowledge our tendency to let stupid words turn us on a dime, the sooner we can stop being held hostage by them.
Donna was stupid. A nurse, especially the night nurse in a postpartum recovery situation, should not make her patients feel like idiots for the freaking love. We're already doing that well enough on our own! But I'm thankful that in that moment, I had another voice that was louder and kinder that reminded me of the truth. As soon as I realized that Donna was wrong, that Annie wasn't a demon baby and that I wouldn't accidentally kill her, I was able to get back to an 8 pretty quickly.
Stupid words lose their power fast in the face of the truth.
Listen to the true voices, not the stupid ones. And if you're alone when the stupid words come, trust what you believe about yourself on the good days. And more than that, trust the One whose truth about you trumps every stupid person out there.