Don’t Listen

I’ve learned that its not a good idea to listen to what people say about you.  People, even people who love us, may say things that are not always complimentary.  Its part of human nature.   Even people we care about and who care about us, may say things that aren’t aways complimentary, and listening to what they may have said about us will only hurt our feelings and possibly damage a good relationship.  Ecclesiastes 10:20 says, “Do not curse the king, even in your thought;
Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, And a bird in flight may tell the matter.”  We would all do better to keep our mouths shut, but its not our nature.  It can be just as bad to believe everything we hear, or everything that is said, as saying it.  

They truth is, everyone by nature is somewhat critical. Nobody leads such a life that they have no detractors ever. Wisdom is in realizing that  not everyone who says the wrong thing is our enemy, and even if they said the wrong thing, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love us.  I have dear friends who have said they thought I did something stupid behind my back.  Maybe it was stupid, and maybe it wasn’t.  They didn’t want to get into an argument with me, maybe because they cared about me and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. They didn’t want to get into a fight about it, but they still didn’t like it.  Thats part of what friendship does.  It knows we do dumb things, but accepts us anyway.

When I hear that someone said something that was uncomplimentary about me, I really don’t know the context or the intent. It would be wrong to act on what I heard, even if it was painful to me, because I didn’t hear it, and don’t know if what was reported was reported accurately, or their intent. It wouldn’t be fair to the person who allegedly made the comment. Being a friend means giving someone the benefit of the doubt. If I think it’s true that they said it, I’m supposed to go to them and discuss it with them.  When I assume they did say it without talking to them, I am presuming them to be guilty, when they may not be.  Doing the right thing is to give a friend the benefit of the doubt.  It also means recognizing the ones through whom we heard these things may have had good intentions.

I recently heard that someone I love and care about said some unkind things. I was deeply hurt, and the person who told me had only good intentions, but as I thought about it, because they are my valued friends, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t mean it. Sometimes we say things to be funny or to express an opinion without thinking our words may hurt people.  We can get upset and have an argument, or we can forgive. I choose to forgive, and I can only hope when I say things I don’t really mean, that people will forgive me.

The truth is, even though I love God, I offend Him every day of my life. I make stupid decisions and say foolish things that don’t reflect my greater values or how I really feel.  I try to do better, but I’m so far from perfect; yet God forgives me. I try to do the same for His children.  I learned to forgive because I have been forgiven of much.



Dealing With Holiday Disappointment

festivusPsychologists say the most depressing time for many people is the holiday season.  I love holidays, but also find myself vulnerable during this time.  For most of my life, I have been very sensitive.  Its something I really can’t help, it’s how I’m wired.  I realize this puts a burden on the people around me, and I try to just suck it up, but I find myself getting hurt even when it may not have been people’s intent.  Art Garfunkel summed it up well in his song, “All I Know,”

I bruise you, you bruise me

We both bruise too easily

Too easily to let it show

I love you, and that’s all I know

I get bruised very easily.  The good side, is that I have learned to be compassionate towards other people’s pain.  I know that I’m not the only hyper-sensitive person out there, but what can I do?

I love the idea of Festivus, the Seinfeld inspired secular holiday where people sit around the table telling how they have disappointed one another in the past year.  While its pretty awkward to discuss disappointment, it’s probably a good thing because you get to air your grievances, which can be helpful to a relationship.  Some people may be hurting others and they don’t have a clue.  Others may have rationalized their behavior and don’t see that they are causing pain to others.  Finding a KIND way of sharing these things is good.

Nevertheless, even if you try, some people just don’t want to hear it.  They accuse you of making it all about you. There may be some truth to it, but at the same time, people can be pretty insensitive, especially our loved ones.  Relatives tend to take each other for granted.  The holidays are the worst times.

What can people do with their hurt feelings?  First, do what you can to repair a relationship if you can. If you need to apologize, do it.  If you need to forgive, do it. Don’t be too quick to write people off.   If you are invited to a party… GO.  You might be pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes people care more about us than we think they do. People will be happy to see you, because you cared to come.  When I needed surgery, and couldn’t afford it, I was shocked that my friends came through with big money to pay for it.  We may mean more to others than we realize. 

Second, it helps to recognize that being involved in toxic relationships will not be beneficial.  Avoid negative people who drag you down.  Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to fix a relationship, and continuing in it will only create more pain.

Some people go into therapy, and sometimes derive benefit.  Other people avoid people who make them feel bad and hang around with the ones who make them feel affirmed.  That’s a good thing to do.  Finding people who know and value you is positive.  I stopped trying to change the negative perceptions some people have had of me, and spend my time and energies with the ones who value being with me and build me up.

Another thing that helps is to do things to help others.  Helping others can be transforming, for them, and for you.  Rather than let people define you by their negativity, do something positive for others.  Become a blessing.

More than anything else, Forgive people for their hurtful behavior.  Think of the things you have been forgiven for, and be generous towards others in forgiveness.  Sometimes people really don’t mean what they say, and you don’t know what they are going through.  People lash out without meaning it.  Even if you have been hurt, be quick to forgive.

The Cost Of Love

love lostPeople who know me well, know I tend to be a loving person.  I am also a sensitive person, at times, too sensitive.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing in that I find it easy to show and express my love for people.  A curse, in that I get my feelings hurt too easily.

I have tried to shield myself from getting hurt by expressing lack of concern or caring, but it isn’t really true. I do care, very deeply, about the people I love, and the things that matter to me.  I have spent my life caring about people, and about doing the things I believe matter.  The result has been that I have gotten hurt many times.

I often wonder what I can do about it.  I can’t just stop caring.  It isn’t in me not to care.  It isn’t other people’s fault.  They are who and what they are.  If I stop caring, it would change who I am into a person I don’t wish to be.  I have taught that what other people do is not what matters, but how we respond to what others do or say is what matters, because, after all, that involves our actions and choices.

I have tried to not care, but that doesn’t work.  I know from long experience that arguing doesn’t work either.  What I have come to, is to accept the cost.  If I want love, I have to be willing to pay the cost of love. People I don’t care about really can’t hurt me.  You have to open yourself to people if you want to experience love.  If you don’t open yourself to them, you will never experience love.  It means the people whom you love the most have the potential for hurting you the most. It means being willing to get your feelings hurt from time to time.  Those feelings will eventually subside.  If you don’t pay the price, you cheat yourself out of relationships with the ones you love.  

Love is a risk. Not loving involves no risk, but it means loneliness.  I would rather take the risk, and have the relationships.  In my life, I’ve endured pain and disappointments. They are part of life.  Its like the old adage by Lord Alfred Tennyson, “It’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.”

So what can you do about your feelings? The feelings we experience come and go.  We eventually get over them if we are willing to let go of them.  Remember that your love for others is what matters.  Love is a rare commodity in the world.  People are not so quick to throw it away.  Even when they do, we have a choice about how to respond. If someone hurts my feelings, I can dwell on them and get defensive, or I can try to comply with their wishes, to make them happy, and in so doing, perform an even greater act of love for them.  Real love does not seek its own.  It comes down to forgiving them for the hurt, and continuing to love them.

Some people mistake kindness for weakness.  That is a big mistake.  It takes a strong person to ignore their own hurt and bless the ones who hurt them.  This is what it means to turn the other cheek.  It’s something we want everyone else to do, but it’s not easy to do ourselves.  Real love is blessing the other person, not seeking your own way, letting yourself be hurt for the sake of those you love.  The cost of not doing it is too high.