An Open Apology to Anyone Who was Ever a Student

One true miracle that has come out of my chronic diseases has been my fledgling, but redemptive pursuit of singing. At first, singing was my greatest childhood love, then my silenced passion, and ultimately my most crippling fear. These posts, written in scarlet (a color of redemption), comprise my testimony to the life-altering beauty that can unexpectedly emerge from hard times. Honestly, I can’t sing very well yet. It is my ongoing challenge but also my life’s most fulfilling pursuit. I never knew just how revelatory this beautifully vulnerable adventure would be. In this series, I’d like to invite you to join me in resurrecting a silenced dream, pursuing a muted passion, or overcoming a lifelong fear. Why not you? Why not now? The Singing Series – Part 1

An-Open-Apology-to-Anyone-Who-was-Ever-a-Student

You’ll never amount to anything.
Why can’t you be more like your brother?
You just don’t look the part.

You don’t have what it takes.
You’re so lazy.
Sorry, but no.

How many of you have ever had a teacher, coach, parent, older adult, or someone of authority tell you that you weren’t good enough to do something? Has your spirit ever been devastatingly crushed by just a few ill-spoken words?

And why do those words still echo in our minds so loudly, even today?

Words of unfounded criticism.
Sentences of confinement.
Ridiculous comparisons.
Charges of worthlessness.

Why can those early criticisms STILL bring even extremely successful adults to a point of nothingness?

How did we lose our wide-eyed wonderment of childhood and our perception of boundless potential?

There are few things as beautiful as the curious discoveries and virtuous pursuits of a child.

Can you picture yourself as a child?

One minute you’re soaring high with innocent passion, dreaming of a vibrant outcome, and delighting greatly in the mere engagement of a loved activity…

when suddenly…

A few uninvited words from “someone” cause your worth to come crashing to the ground. You quickly shovel any evidence that remains of your foolish pursuit and hide it in a dark cave. The odds are that shame will prevent you from ever venturing back to recover those shattered dreams, and likely a giant piece of your most authentic self will get stuffed in that deep, dark cave also.

Who had the right to extinguish such a bright light??!

I want to invite you to go back into that sacred cave and redeem what is so rightfully and beautifully yours.

On Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast last year, Brene Brown shared her findings from her research on shame,

“85% of the men and women who I interviewed remembered an event in school that was so shaming, it changed how they thought of themselves for the rest of their lives.”

As a former teacher, this absolutely wrecks me.
As a former student, I am represented in that 85%.

My guess is that you are too.

My story of humiliation, shame, and abandoned dreams

Eleven.
Quite innocent. A bit shy. Trying to figure out what it means to be me.

And then I found it! 

I discovered THE one thing that quickened my heart and made me feel ALIVE!  I didn’t even know it was possible to feel like this. I could feel the JOY in my cells!

SINGING! I joined the elementary school chorus!

It was a big group of kids. The music teacher was responsible for all of the grade levels and didn’t have time to be intimately acquainted with any of us. The chorus was nothing too serious, no big solos – but I LOVED IT!! I excitedly looked forward to every single rehearsal. During our seasonal performances for our parents, I literally felt like a superstar. I didn’t sing loud nor did I stand out in any way whatsoever, but I was just so darn proud to be on those risers singing with everyone else. I could feel the music in my SOUL. 

Sadly, my music career came to a crashing halt in a very short amount of time. One day after after rehearsal, the music teacher said to me,

“Dear [I don’t think she knew my name], you’re singing off key. You can either quit the chorus now or mouth the words for the rest of the year.”

what?
what did she just say to me?

DEVASTATION filled my soul in a way that literally crushed me. I tried to hold in my tears and gave her my impossible reply, “I’ll mouth the words.” It would be way too humiliating for me to admit this ousting to my friends.

I showed up at our next rehearsal and obediently did as she said. However, as you can well imagine, mouthing the words caused a terrible desolation as well as a very secret shame. I just couldn’t do it.

I quit.

I also had another adult in my life who criticized me even more heavily for singing off pitch. So obviously I had issues, but couldn’t someone have tried to show me how to sing better? I was 11 and eager to learn.

In the end, I silenced my singing voice for nearly 4 decades. Sure, I might sing by myself with a full-blast radio in the car, or perhaps in jest with a few friends (always in jest though, never genuinely). I mouthed the words when I sang at church. I even mouthed the words to “Happy Birthday.” I didn’t want anyone to hear me sing, because I knew that I was not allowed to sing with everyone else.

How about you? Do you have a similar story?

A moment of poignancy with my students

When I was teaching high school, I shared my experience with a few of my classes. I asked them, “How many of you have had an adult criticize you or tell you that you can’t do something?” As I’m sure you can imagine, every hand went up. The massive weightiness in those moments shook me to the core.

Trying to find our collective redemption, I asked them some questions:

Do you think my music teacher remembers what she said to me?
Do you think that she even remembers my name?
Do you think the teacher is still thinking about this incident? 

The rhetoric “no’s” were so obvious.

Then why, to this day, do I still define myself and my life by her words?

I told them that sometimes adults say the most thoughtless things. We realized together the ridiculous senselessness of the confining and damaging words that we mutually held.

At my age now, I am likely older than my music teacher was when she said those painful words to me.  As a kid, I didn’t know that adults could be wrong. But now as an adult, I can so clearly see my own fallibility.

Consider the source of the uninvited criticism that was heaped upon you. Is it likely that it resonated from an unmarked moment of someone else’s imperfection?

On behalf of all of us teachers who spoke so thoughtlessly to you, “I am so, so very sorry.”

Teachers, coaches, parents, and others in “authority” are all imperfectly human. We get busy. We say things without thinking. We multitask and dismiss you. We don’t look long enough to evaluate carefully. In our stress, we don’t listen. We have our own scars and insecurities, and we can project our own family dysfunction on to you. 

Yes, we can also be great, passionate, encouraging, helpful, and maybe even life-changing. However, even with an incredible teacher, it only takes a few seconds of defect for us to impose lifelong damage on a soul of innocence.

I don’t offer these explanations as any sort of excuse. Those words of criticism were a tragic infraction. It was flat-out WRONG.

What I’d like to do, however, is counteract the seeming immovability of those words. 

That destructive comment, spoken in the midst of our imperfections, was never about you. They weren’t meant for you to carry.

More than anything…
I’m here to apologize.

On behalf of all teachers, and ESPECIALLY if it was I who spoke those words to you…

I AM SO, SO VERY SORRY. 

That imprisoning declaration was NEVER meant for you to base your life upon.

What is your story?

What are the dreams that you forfeited at the feet of an adult or authority figure?

What were the injustices that forced you to usher your passions into darkness?

How much of your own authenticity did you have to sacrifice in doing so?

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’d LOVE to hear your comments. You don’t have to share specifics, but have you ever been locked down by harsh words? If you’re inclined to share more details of your story, I’m quite SURE that you’ll have the full support of this community of readers. Let’s bond together against this ridiculousness and finally take back our birthrights of passion.

With my truest heart,
Sase

 

25 thoughts on “An Open Apology to Anyone Who was Ever a Student

  1. Lori! I can’t believe your teacher said that to you! We used to belt out John Denver songs and we/ you sounded awesome! :) Your conversations with your students…how lucky they were to have you. You are a smart, sensitive and intuitive person…someone told me once that I couldn’t be a Physical therapist, that as an Asian female, I would have a hard time getting a job and I needed to be strong to do that job…I wish I’d known how to ask questions and find out for myself the facts…that regret has never left me.

    • Oh Stacy, there’s never been a day that I haven’t held your words sacred. You are one of the people in my life who has impacted me the most. Once again, you totally grabbed my heart with the John Denver memory. I forgot how much we used to belt those out. FUN – it was all about fun! Those were the days when I sang freely and had not yet convinced myself that I sounded terrible. Along with that teacher, I had a family member who was probably 100 times more critical of my singing. I’m trying to find that inner child spirit that used to sing with you. So thank you a million times over for this reminder.

      To hear your story about physical therapy grieves me so deeply. I can’t think of ANYone more qualified, more talented, more intelligent (on every level practical, intuitive, and everything in between), nor STRONGER (physically, mentally, spiritually, every way possible). Oh gosh, Stacy, I’m so, so sorry that someone would impose such a terribly uninvited and horribly wrong roadblock. That’s so ridiculous. And.. the “Asian female” component confounds me. I ache over the racial issues that our nation has and is facing. I’m so sorry for all that happened. I do know, however, that it wouldn’t matter what you did or who you were with, you have and continue to impact lives irrevocably for the better. You can’t help it, it’s just you being YOU.

      I can’t even tell you how much it means to me to have you on the blog. I have missed you so dearly over these last years. I find myself leaning into our memories and your insights all the time. You’re one of the best people I know.

      Love you xxxxxo

  2. Lori! Oh my gosh! I haven’t even finished reading this yet but as I was beginning to read, it occurred to me that you might appreciate a GREAT audio book I listened to recently, and will listen to again, called “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown!!! And then you mention her! 😊❤️ Ok, now I’m going to keep reading…
    Sending love and healing thoughts to you,
    Stacy

    • Okay, so I just started listening to The Power of Vulnerability .. and oh my gosh, I was SO hooked from the very first word! Thank you SO much for this recommendation and for the audible link too You are an absolute love. I’ve just barely begun, but I KNOW that i will love it. I am a gigantic Brene Brown fan and find myself storming YouTube quite often for her talks. :) My voice teacher gave me Rising Strong, which I’m reading now and loving. Have you read that one? xxxxo

  3. Maybe this is the reason I loved to be at your home so much that I never stopped going even when in college. Your mom never told me I couldn’t or ever made me feel less than. My house was not always that way and as a shy child I wilted under the criticism and even worse, no criticism just that disappointed sigh that is so much worse. I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years working through some of these things and so I am very cognizant of the damage that can be done when I am speaking to Sydney and yet at the same time when she pushes my buttons more often than not it is speak first and apologize later. Your words resonate with me because we do often define ourselves by some thoughtless remark made to our more vulnerable selves. And I wish I had had better shields to protect myself when I was a child. But I had a brother who always stood up for me and this really great second family that made me feel included, special and valued. And it is only lately that I realize how much that helped shaped who I am so I did not let those childhood criticisms prevent me from going forward. I am guessing that you are very thoughtful in the words you speak and were probably even more so as a teacher because it is in your nature and your soul to give love and positivity. I will never forget seeing you arrive at your reception so vibrant and literally dancing with joy Van Morrison belted out Brown Eyed Girl. That woman, she can sing. She can do anything. I’m certain of it.

    Lianne

    • I know we have spoken via phone over these things after you posted this. It meant the world to me to sort things out with you. Honestly, there’s not a day that our conversation hasn’t reverberated in my soul. I am so, so grateful that my Mom was such a safe place for you. She loved you in a way that was so heart touching that it could make me weep. My heart aches over the things that you and i were both going through behind closed doors. It amazes me to think that even as the best of friends that we never knew that about one another. I suppose children keep their loyalties and also have a hard time separating truths from wrongdoings. When it’s all you know, you think it’s normal.

      I so deeply admire the relationship that you have with your Sydney. From the far too infrequent times that I’ve been able to see her, and from the photos of her that you post, it’s so obvious that she is SO incredibly loved. I can’t imagine you saying anything damaging to her or anyone, but your awareness of generational issues is everything.

      I treasure so deeply all of those days that we spent together growing up.. and I LOVE our connections now too. I really, truly do not know who I’d be without you. I’m quite sure that our friendship was the solidity that I needed during such times of vulnerability and shame.

      And… once again, you completely brought me to my knees with your wedding memory and words of encouragement. The way you breathe hope and encouragement into my life, while at the same time never merely offering sugar-coated admonitions, will ALWAYS be one of my life’s most impossibly beautiful gifts.

      Love you so, so much Annie.. you will always be both a Heyler and a Sase. <3

  4. As always, an amazing post my darling. I know we both feel very strongly about people being torn down by words that have nothing to do with them and you summed it up so beautifully in this post.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with everyone, I hope it inspires people to give their “shame source” another go – for them. xx

    • Kim.. you will never know just how much I treasure your words. If I ever mention your name to someone in my circle, it’s always followed by something like, “she’s one of the most amazing souls I’ve ever known in my life.” Every single time I connect with you, I am struck anew by your depth of heart, your multi-nuanced perspectives, your ability to perceive things that many may miss, your exceptional gifts of communication, your engaging charm, your wonderful humor, your true love for people, and about a million other things. Thank you for being such a force of encouragement, healing, and redemption in our world. You are the teacher (and friend) whom everyone dreams of having.

  5. Lor… my heart still aches over those words that were thoughtlessly spoken to you. I for one know how beautiful your singing voice is… and was. Thank you for sharing such profound courage to take off that “Hello my Name is…” sticker and having the tenacity to define yourself through truth-filled, heavenly lenses.

    I, too, have both spoken careless words and I’ve been the recipient of them. There were two that created a treadmill effect in my life:
    “You’ll never amount to anything!”
    “You think the world revolves around YOU.”

    Although I responded to those two lines with a fierce exterior, the truth is, those words cut deeply. I detested those opinions. So, for the few decades, I set out to disprove them. I desired success. I desperately wanted to let those around me know that I put them before me. The result was pure exhaustion. Supreme people-pleasing. Burnout. And quite honestly, it’s only now that God is revealing how insidious those carelessly-spoken words were.

    It’s only now that I feel confident stepping off the hamster wheel… comfortable in my uniqueness… with full belief that God has my identity tucked away in Jesus. I’m finally breathing pure oxygen. And I’m carefully considering the way I use my words when it comes to others. THANK YOU for this life-giving post. I love you more than I can express… xo

    • Oh Noelle, I treasure this comment so much. I ACHE over the FALSE words that were spoken so thoughtlessly to you. Those two statements, could not be, FARTHER from the truth. i dare to say that I’m one of the people who know you best in this world, as well as one who has known you the longest.. and those words don’t even come close to touching what is true about you. To think that you have battled those false wounds for so long grieves me so deeply. At the same time, it has been incomparably soul-stirring and faith-building to be a witness to your journey.

      Anyone who has ever known or met you has seen your layer upon layer upon layer of triumphs throughout this life. Your accomplishments could fill volumes, so no one would ever know the uninvited battle that you had to face. You truly could never know just how much your honesty, your bravery, and your FAITH have stirred my heart as you have traversed such a balanced pursuit of wellness. It is a true testimony to God’s provision and healing. It is so life-altering to see the real truth prevail.

      As you finally breath in pure oxygen, thank you for breathing out such life-giving hope and encouragement to every single person whom you come across.

      There’s no one like you, Little Sister. Your beauty has overwhelmed me since day one. I love you so, so, so much.

  6. Love this post and it brings up so many thoughts for me…one as a former teacher and current homeschool Mom, I feel I need to say the same thing to my students. Ugh.

    Two – the singing thing…it’s never been a passion of mine, my dad and I actually joke that we sing like birds – dead ones!! In 7th grade, my choir teacher called a friend and myself in for special help and attempted to teach us to sing in our “attic voices”. Pretty sure I don’t have one, so the next year I didn’t get out for choir!!

    Finally, the story that comes to mind…I’ve always been one to write, journal and pen poems, but I never shared this with anyone. In school, math was my thing and anything writing I never made personal or put forth any extra effort. In a 10th grade literature class, I decided I’d write from the heart and put everything into my paper. I felt good about it, but the day the teacher returned them, he praised another gal (who was always acknowledged) big time in front of everyone and I had a simple “OK” in red at the top of mine. I was crushed and determined to never put myself out there again.

    Clearly God got a hold of me and helped me open up and use a gift He’s given. The interesting twist to the story…when I published my book this former top of the class peer was one of the first to purchase it and later say, “I never knew you were such a good writer.”

    What you say here is so true…our words do matter! God was just speaking to me about this as I watched my kids throw rocks into the water – there’s always a ripple effect.

    Thank you much for sharing and blessings to you as do what you were created to do!!

    • Oh Jill.. I am taking in every single one of your words. Your authenticity, your generous spirit, your beautiful humility, and so much more never fail to open my heart to new levels of life and faith. I continue to marvel over all of the things and experiences that we have in common.

      As for your former students and your children, my guess is that ill-spoken words never spilled forth from you. You have such a love for children, such a devotion to God, and such an appreciation for individuals. You have a sensitivity to people’s needs, and you continue to foster the healing of hearts. If something ever accidentally transpired, I know that you’d be the first to recognize and apologize. Still, it seems like an impossibility that hurtful words would come from you.

      I ache so deeply over how your excitement and giftedness for writing was crushed in a mere matter of minutes. I have so deeply treasured your blog and am loving reading your book. To think that someone like you would be told that they were “OK” after a beautiful piece pouring from your heart.. oh ugh.. I’m so, so sorry.

      I’m so inexpressibly grateful for the redemption and healing that god has brought to your story. Your testimony is SUCH an encouragement to me.

      I love the image of your kids throwing rocks into the water. Indeed, the ripple effect will always be. Thank you for being such a force of beauty, faith, and positivity. THIS ripple effect is sheer beauty.

  7. Dear Sase’ – thank you so much for sharing another wonderful raw real heartfelt post – 100% authentic just as you have always been in the nearly 33 years I’ve known you.

    I am so grateful that you felt you could sing out loud and often with me in Hedrick Hall Room 223 to Elvis and the Monkees among other iconic Roommate songs… and I am so looking forward to The Singing Series 2/3 to hear more about how the angel Alyce has been working with you to pursue this dream. Love that you are singing – and reminding all of us how our words can have a life-long effect, both positively and negatively.

    Press play and sing as loud as you can! “Now you know how happy I can be…”
    xoxo
    Savik

    • Michelle, honestly, your words can make my knees buckle. You know me so, so well and you love me in ways that afford me a perfect menagerie of understanding, encouragement, laughter, healing, and so much more. I LOVE that we have our mosaic of music memories – as you know I used to “joke sing” .. one day, I will actually really sing together with you.. and on that day, I will probably cry a river. I know I don’t have to sing well before this happens. You have always been a space of incomparable safety and joy. :)

      I haven’t been able to work with Alyce for quite some time. She started me out on this journey in the most wonderful way, but her schedule is always quite packed. Between that and my limited times of day where I am functional, we haven’t been able to get together for lessons. She has been the truest of friends though.. as you well know.. there’s never a day that she’s not brightening up all of our lives. I’ve been working with Kim via Skype. She live-in Australia and you would LOVE her! Definitely one of the most amazing souls I’ve ever known in my life. I am still sorting my way through my heaps of emotional baggage, but it’s been a wonderful journey and I feel so grateful for the people whom I’ve been able to meet.

      ps.. has it really been 33 years? 33 years of being happy as can be. :) Now, you press play, my darling. <3 I love you so much Savik.

  8. Overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of words and grace and penetrating soul-moving depth that God has given you. Sitting in the depth of this post. Draw me in Father… Move in me. Keep transforming the broken pieces within. So grateful for this moment to just be.

    • Oh Kel, I treasure every conversation that we’ve ever had, as I know that we’ve traversed these grounds in many different ways and on many different levels. I am quite certain hat I would never make it through the hardships of life without you. Praying for God to continue to heal and transform us. I love you so, so much.

  9. Sase- It was my grandmother who said words to my sister that I’m sure cemented the strained relationship I have with my sister. My sister rebelled against almost all rules. You can’t go out to play after school until you change out of your school clothes and into your play clothes. Ok – I did it, but not my sister. She was going to out-wait my grandmother until my grandmother gave it. Well you guessed it. Grandma didn’t give in and my sister often didn’t get to go out and play. The words I heard my grandmother speak to my sister were, “Why can’t you be like your sister Lynn?” Horrible to compared to a sibling, but being compared to the first born when you are the second child is devastating to a young mind.

    • Oh Lynn, what an uninvited and unfair wedge was placed between the two of you. I ache over the way his all unfolded. To have you as a sister would be the biggest gift in the world. To think that someone could affect that just grieves me so deeply. I will hold your story in my heart and say prayers. Love you so dearly, my friend. xxxo

  10. My heart knows that Teacher Sase and Coach Sase and ASB Faculty Advisor Sase knew each of her students and players and dealt nothing but encouragement. I hope you are humming (on key or not) “Home on the Range” with me…”where never was heard a discouraging word”. Go, Lori! I am proud of you, newest diva! Sing away.

    • Nancy, you spoke the exact words that were tugging on my heart. A huge YEE-HAWW to your “Home on the Range.” Lor’s ENcouraging words have been the very words God Himself has used to heal deep wounds in my heart… He’s spoken through her to allow me to become the person I am today. xoxo

    • Oh Nancy, you could never know just how much encouragement and inspiration I take from your comments. I’m sure you’re not old enough to be my mom, but you continually afford me such sagacious insights and warm encouragement. You bring me tremendous healing.. plus you never fail to have me smiling as well. I’m most definitely humming “Home on the Range” with you. Around you, the skies are not cloudy all day. :)

  11. Lori, I am one of those kids. Mine was from a very close family member. One who should love and encourage you. One who should be your biggest cheerleader. But she wasn’t. Uninvited words continually pierced my heart and broke me down. To this day, she defends her words. Saying she toughened me up. Made me who I am today. Yes, she made me who I am because I made an intentional choice to NOT be like her. With my children most especially. Oh, I fail at that sometimes, but when I see the effect my words have, I realize what I have done; I remember how I felt, and apologize. The Holy Spirit convicts and I obey. Sometimes it might take a day or two … especially with my husband. :)

    Thank you for writing about this. Without Jesus, healing from such deep wounds is so very hard. But He is enough!! Because in Him, we have our identity. And when we know and stand in our identity, words cannot penetrate! We take captive the hurtful words and replace them with truth the truth that NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS, we are loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed, created with purpose, uniquely gifted, and the list goes on!!

    Love you, sweet friend. I pray your beautiful post spreads far and wide!!

    Blessings,

    Wendy

    • Oh Wendy, you are a testimony to the truth of God’s redemption. I literally ache within me to think of you being criticized like that. You sweet spirit is something that continually makes me stop in my tracks, so to think of someone treating you like that is absolutely heartbreaking. I know those words were never about you, but it’s so hard to not read them not to take them in, especially in our formative years.

      One of my favorite things is to hear you speak of your kids. Thank you for letting Christ break the cycle in your family. I can only imagine the buoyancy and solidity that you have afforded your children by smothering them in unconditional love – all the while praying and raising them Biblically. The Blight family spirit – there’s nothing quite like it.

      I’m so, so grateful for what you shared here. I hope that everyone has a chance to read your comment. It represents the grace, healing, and promise of redemption.

      I love you so much xxxo

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Since my health issues prevent me from posting regularly, I'd love to send you a notification of new posts. This newsletter also has a few extra thoughts from yours truly. If interested, please enter your information below, then check your inbox for an email to confirm the subscription. My truest thanks, Sase

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Newsletter

Since my health issues prevent me from posting regularly, I'd love to send you a notification of new posts. This newsletter also has a few extra thoughts from yours truly. If interested, please enter your information below, then check your inbox for an email to confirm the subscription. My truest thanks, Sase

This information will never be shared for third part