29 Nov Shaping Our Bodies
Talk about “shaping our bodies” likely conjures up images of exercise, diet, discipline, weight lifting, and the like. Few of us would immediately think about the tongue and its power to shape our bodies, but words play a powerful role—something we must look at it if we hope to find freedom from a negative self-image.
Most women can recall how someone else’s words impacted how they view themselves. I know this is true for me and for many women who have told me stories of how another person’s words created significant emotional and relational wounds. But what we may not recognize is how we talk about ourselves and our own bodies also has a significant impact on us. The more I study the issue of body image and listen to women talk about their bodies, the more convinced I am that part of our problem with body image begins with our tongues. We perpetuate our own negative self-image through the words we speak; what we say shapes how we see ourselves.
It seems to be a habit for most women—this self-deprecating humor, which is ultimately just a form of self-protection. We are insecure about certain aspects of our bodies, and so we “poke fun” or even criticize ourselves as a way of either covering up our body shame or seeking affirmation from others. Our self-deprecation, which is a corrupted means of protecting our hearts, actually deteriorates us little by little as we become defined and identified by the words we use to describe ourselves. The impact of the tongue is devastating.
“We perpetuate our own negative self-image through the words we speak; what we say shapes how we see ourselves.”
We describe ourselves in terms we would never use to describe others because to do so would be cruel and unkind. Yet we think it is acceptable to do so with ourselves. We talk about our flat chests as being “flat as a board”. We talk about our self-professed “big behinds” as providing “extra cushion”. We call our midsection our “love handles” or “muffin tops”. We describe what we deem as larger than average thighs as “thunder thighs” or our larger, undefined ankles as our “cankles”. We say all this with a nervous giggle and sheepish smile that seems to indicate that we are comfortable and at ease with these aspects of our bodies. All the while we are merely covering up areas of our deep shame and insecurity and desperately wanting others to affirm our beauty and worth.
These seemingly harmless phrases, cloaked in false humility, are eating away at our insides. Our careless, thoughtless use of the tongue begins to shape how we view ourselves. And our focus on these things reduces our identity and worth to only a body of pieces and parts that we pick apart with “affectionate” brutality. And, maybe what is worse, is that we are teaching our daughters to view and talk about themselves in the same way.
“We describe ourselves in terms we would never use to describe others because to do so would be cruel and unkind. Yet we think it is acceptable to do so with ourselves.”
I am struck by how much James 3 speaks to this issue:
– “…the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body…(vs. 6)” How we use our tongues to describe ourselves is all too often corrosive and corrupt. These ways we describe ourselves are not of God. They are wicked and destructive. I cannot say these things without corrupting my entire body. My speech about my body is indicative of my heart and it shapes how I view myself.
– “…It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison…(vs. 8)” The tongue and it effects are deadly to us. We cannot expect to talk in these ways and come out unscathed.
– “…Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God…(vs. 9)” We were made in the image of God. How can we praise the Lord and yet curse ourselves, as His creation made in His image?
James goes on to say that the fruit of the tongue is indicative of the jealousy, envy, and selfish ambition in the heart (vs. 4-16). I know this proves true in my own life and speech. I make fun of my body from a place of insecurity and because I want it to look like the bodies of those I envy. I make fun of my body out of restlessness, discontent, and frustration that it does not meet my standard for it to be “praiseworthy.” I make fun of my body because I want to hear somebody say, “That’s not true! You are beautiful.” But this negative self-talk is self-defeating, only exacerbating the problem rather than leading me to find freedom and healing from it.
James equates our speech with wisdom (vs.13-18). We either speak with “earthly wisdom” which leads to evil and disorder, or we speak with heavenly wisdom, which leads to peace. With this in view, would you say that the words you have spoken about your own body are full of heavenly wisdom? Do you speak about yourself in such a way that promotes peace or disorder?
“We either speak with ‘earthly wisdom’ which leads to evil and disorder, or we speak with heavenly wisdom, which leads to peace.”
Contrary to popular culture or earthly wisdom, the answer is not found in praising ourselves or thinking more highly of ourselves. It is not in building up our own self-image and telling ourselves how beautiful we are. The answer is found in speaking the truth of God’s Word, His heavenly wisdom, over yourself:
– You were created in the image of God
– He formed and fashioned you in your mother’s womb
– He is intimately aware of every aspect of your being
– He created you on purpose—with distinct traits—as a display of His magnificent creativity
– He created you—as you are—for His glory, not your own
As we begin to speak these truths over ourselves, rather than our own self-deprecating words, we may find the Lord leads us to a peace, freedom, healing, and sense of value we could have never hoped for or imagined and begins to reshape how we view our bodies.
—Chrystie Cole, Women’s Discipleship Advisor