At various times in my life, I have been guilty of taking things too personally. Sometimes it comes as a result of my already being a little out of sorts and other times people just say things that hurt me to the core. The other day, I saw a quote and I took a picture of it so I’d remember it: “Try not to take things personally; what people often say is a reflection of them and not you.” This is so true; yet, there are many of us who are incredibly sensitive to insults or hurtful joking.
When I was a young teen, I heard someone call me a geek right before I had to take a test. This girl barely knew me, and in retrospect, was probably trying to sound cool in front of her friends. At the time the reason didn’t matter. All I could hear in my mind for the next hour was what a geek…what a geek ~cue the cruel laughter~.
Needless to say, I bombed the test. It was a test on study skills that I should have aced; but, instead I dwelled on her hurtful words and let it rob me of doing well. I don’t know much about this girl. Truth be told, I can’t even remember her name; but, I would imagine she had been hurt by someone, probably repeatedly, and it’s a fact that hurt people hurt people.
Fast forward a few years. When my maternal grandmother was sick with cancer, my mom worked all day, and went to the nursing home almost every night to visit her. Mom was tired, stressed, and grieving. During Grandma’s eleven month battle with brain cancer, my mom changed under the weight she was carrying.
One day, as I was finishing dusting a room, Mom came in behind me and started dusting. When I told her that I had just dusted that room, she said, “Well, if you can’t do it right, then I guess I’ll have to do it.” At the time, that statement hurt me. It was as if, at nineteen years old, I was still too incompetent to dust a dining room.
After telling my paternal grandmother what Mom had said to me, she gently reminded me to be patient with her. Mom was at one of the lowest points of her life and misspoke. That was not her normal demeanor. Her statement was a reflection of what she was going through and not a reflection on my ability to clean. As far as my memory serves me, she hasn’t made a statement like that since. ~smile~
Fast forward a few more years to marriage – the institution I had dreamed of my entire life. Quickly, I learned that when someone vows to love you and cherish you till death, it doesn’t mean that they are perfect and will never hurt you. On the contrary, it is easier to hurt your spouse than almost anyone else because they are initially trusting and an easy target.
After taking stuff all day long from a boss, coworker, or classmate, it is easy to come home and blow up at your spouse. It’s not right, but it is easy. After wasting hours of our marriage brooding over things Eric said to me that I considered harsh, I started considering the situation (though I’m not perfect at this by any means). A trend became clear. On Friday nights, Eric had more of a tendency to be short with me. This had a lot to do with the fact that he was completely exhausted. On Saturday mornings, he would be back to his old self, well-rested and happy.
This is not to say that all hurtful comments should be ignored. It is not okay to go through life accepting other people’s verbal mistreatment. What I am saying is that, in most situations, it is easier on you if you realize that people’s comments reflect on their situation or character more than they do on your situation.
There will be times where friends and family will need to confront us on issues. I’m not suggesting we quit listening to wise counsel; but, when bitter Betty from down the street makes a snide remark about your grass dying and your hedges needing trimming, smile at her and let it go. She’s miserable and it has nothing to do with your landscaping (unless your grass and hedges really are out of control!). You may even want to reach out to her – she probably needs a positive person in her life.
Beware of your future spouse’s tongue. Even the sweetest people alive have moments of anger. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (James 1:19). When you are tempted not to forgive, remember all the times you’ve needed forgiveness. That seems to soften hearts quickly.
How do you typically react to other’s insults? Do you find yourself insulting others?