I ran into someone recently who shared some things about someone we both know, someone who has hurt me very deeply. The other person didn’t know I knew this person well, still has no idea that this person has been unkind to me, and we were discussing this person while talking about a topic close to our hearts. It was honestly not what I would consider gossip, as he was passing along information regarding a project we’re both involved in.
But I heard these unfavorable things being said about this person and I had three thoughts pretty immediately.
First, I was so very disappointed to hear what was being said. It made me feel sorry for this person. Honest and truly. I thought to myself, What has gone on in this person’s life to be considered this…stubborn?…unteachable?…not sure what…by others? Why is this the stance that’s been landed on? And what’s behind the lack of grace shown to others?
Secondly, in a strange twist, it came as a bit of a relief because I realized that the things that have been said to me are probably more indicative of this person’s beliefs in general and not about me specifically. A small consolation, to be sure, and it doesn’t truly take the sting away, but it’s good to keep in mind. I need to always consider the source when someone speaks unkindly to me.
But thirdly, I went to prayer almost instantly, and it sounded something like this, “God, please protect others from the improper advice and harsh words and no grace.” It terrifies me to think of the potential continuing damage that could be done if nothing changes.
Someone stopped me after a talk recently when I had been sharing about the cruel judgment of others on my life and while holding my hand, this gentle stranger said, “What they have said to you is much more a reflection on themselves than on you. It’s about them, not you.”
So next time someone says something to you that hurts – a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, your very own nemesis – take a deep breath. Yes, in a stronger moment, later, you can sit with it for a little while and ask the Spirit if there’s truth in what was said. (But even then, remember: the Holy Spirit gently convicts; he does not harshly condemn. So if you are hearing biting words of judgment, it’s not God.) But right in the moments after the words have come flying out of their mouths and toward your heart, just stop and say to yourself, “This isn’t about me; it’s about him.” And then as quickly as your heart will let you, let the words fall to the ground and move on. You’ve got better things to do.