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Mommy, I hope God is nicer than him

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Friday, January 15, 2021

That was the comment of my 4 year old son when he was lying on the couch sick one Sunday morning. I hadn’t noticed that his cartoon program had ended and he was watching a local preacher known for his fire and brimstone delivery.

Forty-one years have gone by and our family still uses that phrase whenever we encounter someone whose advice is presented in an unnecessarily harsh, mean spirited, arrogant or ridiculing manner.

There are some situations where a severe approach is warranted. Marine drill sergeants have developed their tactics over generations of practice. Parents have employed “tough love” when demanding uncompromising adherence to house rules.

However, in the majority of cases, a positive, supportive approach is much more successful. I’m not talking about false compliments or denial of a problem, but the wrong tone can make the recipient of the advice tune out the message.

Fast forward to 1989. My son was now 14
We were running around the track at the gym.

Me: (looking at myself in the mirrored walls)
“Gee, Bobby, I weigh 20 pounds more than I did in college and I think I look pretty good”
Bobby: (giving his customary honest opinion)
“Maybe you just lowered your standards?”

I laughed and thanked him for his observation, but I still thought I was fine. Because I was active and fit, I always got positive comments. I kept this good opinion of myself for another 20 years as more pounds piled on.

My son went away to college, married and moved far away.
I continued in my blissful, ignorant complacency with no more honest opinions from him
No negative body image, no attempt to lose weight until December 2008

This photo of my AHA moment is on my page so I will remember it forever.

The grimace like smile is me wondering why the 5k I had just run was so slow.
Looking back to 1989, I know I wasn’t ready to do what it takes to lose any weight at that time, but I wish I could at least have figured out how to stop gaining.

Negative comments can be hurtful and often they are meant to be, no matter how thinly veiled. But false praise is detrimental too, no matter how well intentioned, especially when it’s something we want to hear.

May we all have family and friends who support us and give positive encouragement, but also love us enough to tell us the truth.
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