I finished my presentation and took a seat as the next speaker stepped to the podium. She began her session by thanking counseling ministries for our hard work and competent service over the years. When she made eye contact with me, I smiled and quietly said, “Thank you.” Without hesitation, she responded into the microphone, “I wasn’t talking to you.” And then she added, “I’ve been waiting to say that for a long time.” I nodded and she continued with her presentation. I don’t recall the topic or content since I was deep in thought for the next hour.
All of us have been there. We are minding our own business, not looking for trouble and suddenly we get blindsided by someone’s insensitive and hurtful comments. When the shock wears off, our emotions move from embarrassment to hurt to anger. We ask ourselves, “What was that all about? What did I do or say to bring that on? How should I respond?” We mentally go over and over the scenario and formulate a variety of clever but vindictive responses. At the end of the day, we don’t say anything to the offending person. We just feel upset and maybe complain to a sympathetic friend. Thankfully over time the hurt fades away.
Words are powerful, aren’t they? They can build us up or tear us down. We all grew up hearing that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me” but we knew better. Without a doubt, I would choose a whupping with a stick over a hurtful word assault. Getting hurt feelings is inevitable. People say weird things and we will feel hurt. That’s a law of the universe. Not surprisingly James 3:5-8 says, “7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” So, gird up your loins and be courageous. If you’ve never been offended you may be dead. Otherwise, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when those moments happen.
• If you feel wounded a lot, you are probably wearing your bones too tight. Some folks feel hurt or persecuted by almost anything. If something can be taken the wrong way, they will take it that way. Most of us need to loosen up our bones and grow thicker skin. It is really okay to overlook an ill-advised comment. Save that emotional energy for watching Hallmark movies and WWE wrassling. I do.
• Don’t waste time developing a comeback that “puts them in their place.” Really, they already look bad for saying something dumb to you. Being gracious and letting it go makes you look even better in comparison to their rudeness. Striking back won’t change the slight and will only make you look small.
• James 1:19 says “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Most times, if I just listen more closely…get more information…resist striking back…pray about it…consult a trusted friend, I discover there was more going on than I understood on the surface. If I feel I must respond, I wait 24 hours before making that phone call or sending that email. Usually, I find my bones have loosened up and I move forward without a confrontation.
You might be wondering how the opening story turned out. Well, later that same day, the aforementioned speaker approached me during a break. She said, “I am sorry about what I said to you during my presentation. I was trying to make a joke but it came out badly.” I told her that people often mess with me in a good natured way and I received her efforts in the spirit of her intentions. She gave me clumsy hug and we parted. Am I glad I kept my mouth shut after the comment? Yes. Am I glad I didn’t confront her later in the day? Goodness yes. Am I glad I didn’t ask her which part of thank you made her so mad? Well…yeah…I’m mostly glad I didn’t say that either.
HEY…it’s fortnight. Go out there and enjoy it with skin so thick you look like a walking callus.