Monday, May 20, 2013

To keep my words salty

My 14-year-old daughter was telling me that some of her friends feel very down about themselves. They look at themselves in the mirror and get depressed because they don't think they have a thing to offer or admire. One name made me quite surprised. I asked Emma, "Doesn't she pay any attention to all the Facebook feedback she gets on her posts all the time?"

Anybody with young teenage girls among their Facebook friends may know what I mean. A typical comment could be something like, "OMG, you are so stunning and gorgeous! Can't you leave a bit for the rest of us? How R we to compete with U?" This sort of thing gets shoveled on enough to become a bit tedious and the boys in my family roll their eyes if they walk past and see it.

Emma's answer was sadder still. "That doesn't count. You can't believe any of that because everyone does it." She went on to describe how it's an unspoken code among teenage girls she knows. If you want to get any positive feedback, you have to pour out praise on others. That way you know you'll get it back, because other girls are obligated to respond. "If you don't tell them they're beautiful right back, you'll come across as mean and full of yourself and get paid out. The problem is, you can't believe what people are telling you because you know why they're doing it."

What a miserable way for things to be, yet I know if my generation in the '80s had had Facebook, we would have been just the same. If ever anybody does give some genuine, heartfelt praise, you might be inclined to ignore it because you suspect the person's motives are insincere. It makes me reflect that perhaps we adults may be in the position to have some impact on the teenage girls. If we give them honest and warm feedback, they may not have the same reason to question our motives. However, it also makes me realise something else too.

It is a prime example of words losing the power they were meant to have. It makes me think of what Jesus meant when He spoke about salt losing its saltiness. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men" (Matthew 5:13). That applies to our words for sure. If they're bland and watered-down, like the pumpkin soup I made yesterday, they're not good for anything. What good are words that have lost their power because nobody believes or trusts them?

It's not just the words of young female teens that lose their saltiness but all of us. Politicians' promises get scoffed at, based on a history of let-downs. Advertising claims are ignored. When my cheap shampoo doesn't make my hair shiny and healthy, I don't get indignant because they didn't keep their word. When my McDonalds burger doesn't look like the picture on the board, I don't get all upset either. And recently, when I said, "We'll see," to a request from my son, Blake, he said, "I'll bet that's just a fob-off comment that'll end up meaning no." That got my attention because he was right. What a bland, flavourless "you'll see" it was.

If we make an effort to keep our words salty, I'm sure we can be people who speak and write with flavour, at least in our own lives. It's surely well worth making an effort to use words sparingly and then only say what we mean. We don't have to be blunt or brutally honest. We can just stick to the old rule, "If you don't have anything constructive or worthwhile to say, don't say anything." We don't need to make stuff up. Then people will believe our feedback and trust our claims.

By the way, I'm happy to say that with a bit of salt and pepper sprinkled in my bowl, that pumpkin soup tasted fantastic. I can confidently tell the others, "If you season it to your taste, it'll be lovely." Those are salty words.

I'm also delighted by what Emma said at the end of our conversation. She gave a little shrug and said, "I don't think I'm really like the others. I don't waste time thinking about all that stuff. When I look into the mirror, the face I see is just who I am. I can't change it, so if that's what I've got, that's what people have to take."

Salty words indeed.


  1. You have a wise daughter, Paula.

  2. Hi Lyn,
    I do appreciate hearing wise remarks from the mouths of my children :)

  3. I don't know. I don't mind when they say nice things to each other even if they do expect reciprocation. There are so many places where girls are being told they are not thin enough/tall enough/fill-in-the-blank enough, I think it is difficult to accurately pinpoint where the insecurity comes from.

    Insecurity might also be caused by an issue at a critical time in one's life. I never thought myself pretty because I was overweight from asthma medication as I entered puberty. My own daughter doesn't believe the many voices that say she is beautiful, and she hears them as much in her real life as she does online. She had a tooth come in sideways and I think she always sees herself with that one imperfection.

    The one thing I do know is that that teen reflection of ourselves can be a powerful image to overcome.

  4. Hi Cristina,
    Yes, it's good that they have kind intentions toward each other. If only they believed each other!
    I had all sorts of things said to me as a young person which I believed and made me miserable, and in retrospect, looking back at photos, I think they weren't true at all. We soak everything in though, especially at that age.


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