My day used to rise or fall on the approval of others.
Anybody there? It’s a terrible place to be, right?
And not just that day. A hurtful comment or action could ruin my week or month.
I could ruminate on a difficult situation for days and days.
But never once did all this thinking and worrying and obsessing solve a problem. Never once was I better off for it. In fact, it did nothing but burn valuable energy–emotional, mental, and physical. Something most of us have little to spare.
My husband, Brance, could see the life drain out of me as I was pulled into whatever drama I allowed myself to obsess about. He often identified my worry and obsessing before I even said a word to him by my demeanor. It just sucked the life right out of me.
And there is always something in life we can obsess about. Amen!? Someone who doesn’t like us or treat us well, a difficult situation at our job, a challenging family relationship, un unfair judgment of us by another. There is always something.
But constantly ruminating and worrying and obsessing is no way to live. In fact, I’ll just say it. It’s unhelpful and harmful. And it controls your life–your emotions, your decisions, your time.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
I know that it is possible to change. I know that we can learn a new way. One where our circumstances do not control us and steal every bit of joy and our valuable energy. Energy we could be using to live and love and serve.
Because, how can we love and serve others (one of the greatest sources of joy in life), if every bit of our emotional and mental energy is poured into obsessing about our circumstances?
It can’t be done. Not well, anyway. Not when you’re surviving, just barely getting by.
Recently I had something happen that would have sent me into an emotional tailspin for days, if not weeks, in the past. I had someone give me a “social Heisman” like I have never experienced before. Their behavior was rude and calculated and embarrassing.
But do you know what?
I was okay. After the initial shock of the situation wore off and I went home, I was fine. I have hardly thought of the offense or person and it just happened a couple of days ago.
For me, this is a miracle.
In the past, I would’ve spun into a tailspin of rumination and worry and obsession. I would’ve been sucked dry mentally and emotionally. I would’ve been useless to my little family and it would’ve spoiled my 10th wedding anniversary yesterday.
But it didn’t at all. I don’t even recall thinking of the offense once yesterday.
You guys, this is huge!
So, what is different now?
For me, what has changed involves how I respond in the wake of an offense AND how I prepare myself beforehand. Some of it may surprise you!
Embracing the fact that I have value and worth, regardless of how others treat me, has made a big difference for me.
Often this is subtle and subconscious, involving the script in our head, and will require practice.
We are likely unaware that at the root of our desire for approval is NOT seeing that we don’t need it. And that, in fact, it is actually unhealthy, harmful, and even sometimes dangerous to live for other people’s approval.
There is so much freedom that comes from embracing our intrinsic worth! It’s a worth that can never be taken by another human. Because God gave it to you and me when he created us in his image.
By the way, that hurtful person has the same worth too, even if they aren’t acting as they were created to act—with love for others.
Responding with bitterness only places us in a similar position. One where we are not acting in character with who we were made to be. One that stunts our growth as a person and keeps us from moving on.
So, after I remind myself of my worth—which can require lots of practice in the beginning—I extend forgiveness in my heart. I pray for them, that God would move their life in a good direction. Because do you know what?
Hurting, broken people hurt other people.
I look for something to be thankful about in the situation. I often give thanks for the opportunity to practice forgiveness, to grow, and become a stronger person. Because trials and pain help us grow like nothing else in life.
And then I put it from my mind. I don’t allow myself to dwell on the offense. Anytime I find it “popping” into my mind, I return to forgiveness (wishing the other person well) and thanks and then turn my thoughts elsewhere. It gets easier with practice, I promise!
So, that is what I do in the wake of an offense.
Preparation is equally important if you want to be successful.
Eating healthily, getting adequate sleep, and optimizing Vitamin D3 levels (a big piece of the puzzle for most) are so important if you want to have the physical, mental, and emotional strength to respond in the way I described. (I cover those and four other critical things in my free e-book).
Prior to taking care of myself, I am not sure if it would have been easy or even possible for me respond the way I do now. And to experience the beautiful freedom that comes when you do! To reclaim the emotional and mental energy that was stolen by “others”.
I am a different person and you can be too!
Learning all this has changed my life like you wouldn’t believe! If my day still rose and fell on the approval of others, I wouldn’t have the energy for this blog. Back in the day, I didn’t have an ounce of energy to spare.
Previously, I was the queen of rumination and worry. I don’t even feel like the same person today. If my life can transform this much, I know yours can as well. And believe me, the payoff is worth every bit of the effort!
P.S. I thought I should add that we ALL are perpetrators of offense. None of us behave perfectly in every interaction. We hurt other people, at times, without even being aware. This has been humbling for me to contemplate, especially as I choose to extend forgiveness in my heart toward those who have hurt me. But I thought it was important to mention! It really helps with the forgiveness piece :).