It begins as soon as we can speak in complete sentences.
“He said I’m stupid!”
“She said I’m ugly!”
Then there are tears and more words. More tears.
We not only care what others say about us, but we give them the power to make us miserable. Think about it. Someone you know can be a total jerk. He can be annoying, rude, and obnoxious. She can be dumb, heartless, and hateful. But the minute “I think you are…” comes out of their mouth, you’re involuntarily thinking “Am I?”
My students have discovered the “power of words” and begun to tease each other unmercifully. Each day this week there has been an incident involving hurt feelings, tears, and “he said/she said”. We finally had a circle discussion about it today. I made them all think about how hurt they are when someone says something bad, but I also reminded them that talking doesn’t make it so.
I was in line with another class today and a sad little girl said “Mrs. Maurer, ________ said I’m a mean girl!” I just looked at her and said “Honey, he could say that all day and it wouldn’t make you mean.” Big smile.
Why do we do that to ourselves? I know the Bible says we are to be loving and kind. We’re supposed to turn the other cheek, give the coat away, etc. But does it say somewhere that we have to believe everything someone says about us? Does it say we have to cry and have an upset stomach all day because some fool doesn’t like us?
I used to crave the approval of others. I used to think everyone, EVERYONE had to not only like me, but approve of me. And in order for them to approve of me I had to be anything and everything anyone else wanted me to be. I had to be perfect. I tried to be quieter, smarter, nicer, prettier, braver…whatever. I still have moments of doubt now and then, but for the most part I truly believe that I’m a pretty decent person. I like who I am. God made me this way. If I’m doing the best I can in my journey through life I actually don’t need the approval of anyone but Him.
When someone says something bad about me I try to remind myself that their opinion is based on their experience and personality, not mine. I can’t change them. Maybe their mean third grade teacher was a fat lady with curly hair and I remind them of her. Maybe they just don’t like loud women with Okie accents. I could try all day and all next week and I couldn’t change the fact that they find me annoying. But I can decide whether I want to be upset about it. I can make a choice about whether it ruins my day. I can determine if I’m the one who needs to change…or not.
That’s the difficulty. We’re born wanting others to love us. We want to belong to a group. We want the security and approval of that group. But we have to be strong enough to be ourselves. And we have to keep looking until we find a group that accepts us for who we are, not who they want us to be. The Bible says that the disciples were to shake the dust from their feet and go on if a town or church totally refused their message.
I think there are people we should shake loose from our lives if we are letting them dictate, by their disapproval, who we are and what we do.
Oh, I know you're stuck with at least one person you can't please. So am I. There are relatives and co-workers who will be in my life for longer than I care to consider. But I can mentally let them go. I can emotionally let them go. And I can do that by changing how I react to them.
I know it works because I’ve done it.
Repeat after me: “ I will no longer give ________ power over my thoughts, my feelings, or my sense of self-worth.”
Make that your mantra for the week. Don’t give your power to another person. Don’t let teasing, even grown-up teasing, ruin your day.
They can say it all day long, but repetition doesn’t make it true.
Have a great weekend!