I am a good and compassionate listener. I take people at their word. I take their words to heart. The result of that can be that there are times when their criticism brings me down. It takes a lot of soul searching after one of those events before I can analyze their words in an objective way. After letting them bring me down I then begin to analyze. What do I ask myself?
Is their criticism helpful and constructive? Do they even know me, my heart, my history, and my life to have earned the right to say what they said? Let’s say they said, for example, “you don’t care about education, and you don’t think teachers work hard”. Even a criticism that is that far off base initially reaches my heart. There are days when criticism from someone I think loves me absolutely breaks my heart. Why is that? I initially think they are accurate without even running the statement through a filter. Now take the education statement: that is nonsense, and anyone who knows me would realize that.
In the example I gave, let’s say I respond by protesting and give examples of how highly I value a teacher; not to mention that I am a tutor! Then the person, typically would look at me in horror and say “you are so defensive. Why are you upset? I am only trying to help you”….Yeah. Their have been countless examples of this using a lengthy list of topics (many more personal than the above example)through the years, done by more people than I can count. Why is that? Perhaps my heart is too open and loving.There are times when I am way too quick to form friendships, only to discover that they could give lessons to the Mean Girls. I have moved a number of times in my life, and so I need to form new friendships in new places. I love easily and readily. It takes awhile to realize some folks’ true natures. That is when the bullying begins. There have been countless times that I have chosen wisely, and have been rewarded with deep and abiding friendships, too.
I go through my life assuming everyone has the strengths and virtues that I have and they have a whole lot more than that, and are even more virtuous than I am on every count. It takes me by surprise when a person behaves in a demeaning way. It is like you were standing on solid ice, only to discover the ice that looks rock solid isn’t. When I lived in MN we knew when ice was ready to skate upon. How? Well, it got this cool whitish look to it, as I recall. So to continue the analogy, it is as though I was on this gorgeous ice, skating around. All of a sudden, without any warning cracking sound, the ice collapses and I am drowning. As I grab the edge, my hands are full of white paint. Yep—the ice was painted to look white. Whoa!
So, those are the times that initially bring me down. I often leave the initial discussion of this type with the person with my tail between my legs. I feel mopey, maligned, rejected. The person probably never gives the discussion another thought. But there I am, mulling it over and over. Eventually I think of all kinds of witty come-backs. but it is too late, as the discussion is long past. Then I pray and soul search. I decide the person may have brought me down but will not keep me down. I get out my cleats, clips, harnesses, and rappelling ropes and climb back up to God.
People who behave that way are not trying to help me. They may have their own little histories that have absolutely nothing to do with me. Yes, I can help them and be a good example for them. That doesn’t mean that I should seek their counsel or believe their criticism when I know it is false. I don’t write about this today because I am going through it. I do write about it because odds are that today someone is going through it. so I say if someone says something that broke your heart, reconsider what they say in the cold light of day. Just because they said it doesn’t make it true, constructive, helpful, or even worth remembering. When my son was little and being bullied I told him something that he never forgot. They were calling him names; they were telling him he was stupid and ugly. Yep, they were. Nope, he wasn’t. It broke his heart every time.
I told him that just because they said it didn’t make it true. Just because 20 people said it didn’t make it true. Just because the teacher said it didn’t make it true. God made him and knew him, and God is stronger than all of them. Then I said: “if they said you are a banana would you believe them? would you say I guess I am a banana? And if you decided that would you decide you shouldn’t go on a field trip to the zoo in case the monkeys got loose?” He laughed at that one because he could see how ridiculous it would be. I said “then you mustn’t believe their hurtful comments”. Now it really did not help him a huge amount…nor does it help me enough; but it does help. We still weep when people hurt us. but eventually we get to the banana point. We realize we must let it go. I am not a banana!
As far as comebacks go, I don’t always have them at the ready. But there are two that I at times can manage to insert into the discussion. The first is “Did you know you said that out loud”? If they apologize I accept it and say something like “sometimes my filter runs out of batteries, too; I understand” If instead they defend what they said, I just say “huh….well I choose to not participate in the discussion”. and then I just stop talking so as not to be manipulated into the battle. The other comeback I have is easy for me to deliver calmly. I say, “you don’t know me well enough to have that discussion”. and then i change the subject. I have to report that sometimes in the heat of attack I actually remember these comebacks. On my best days as they rip me apart I pray for them rather than listen closely. It is essential to let it go. Oh so essential. Yes, we must pray for and try to understand why the person is bullying. But we also must be compassionate towards ourselves. There is emotional and spiritual freedom in letting it go. It is then you realize–that you are good, true, loving, lovable and worthy. Oh yes you are; you are SO not a banana. 🙂