Let’s face it. Sometimes people can just be jerks. Right? Sorry, but it’s true. They think they have the best advice, know better, or feel that your life is their business. For some of us, that’s okay because we are pretty open about our lives and we welcome comments, suggestions, and personal questions. For others of us, it’s easy to be offended by the actions or words of these family members, friends, and strangers. But I think for the majority of us, because life is so fickle, we are sometimes offended, sometimes not. Or is that just me? Someone could say something, and it doesn’t bother me, while the next day, someone else could say the exact same thing, and it could stab my heart. Why? I don’t know. I mean, I have some ideas, but the why doesn’t matter as much to me as the how to make it better.
When our daughter was born with severe disabilities, there came a time when I cried nearly every time I left the apartment. People were so hurtful in their questions and comments, looks and stares. Months later, I realized I didn’t want to live like that. I don’t want to live feeling attacked, hurt, offended.
I learned three very important lessons that helped me overcome those hurt, offended feelings, and in many ways, they saved my life. I really believe that had I not grasped these three things, I would have become a hermit—and my heart would have suffered because it is not my natural inclination to seclude myself. After our adoptions, those comments and questions just keep coming. So what are the three things that have saved me from sadness and an offended, broken heart?
Assume the Best
This may take some practice, but I came to the conclusion that most people are like me. I would never want to intentionally hurt someone, so why would they want to intentionally hurt me? Now, I understand that may not be true, exactly, but you know what? It made me happier and more peaceful at heart. Truthfully, when people ask questions, I assume they are curious and just maybe don’t know the best way to approach it. When people make suggestions that I would never follow, possibly also implying that they wouldn’t do it the way I do, I remind myself that they are just trying to look out for me and my family. It’s not a perfect system, but as I learned to look at people through that lens—the belief that they were coming from a place of love and concern—I felt better. It made a difference.
I also began to understand that we all have different life experiences that shape our opinions. I love To Kill a Mockingbird. One of my favorite quotes that always goes through my mind is from the master of life lessons: Atticus Finch. Early on, he teaches his daughter, Scout, the importance of perspective when he says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
He doesn’t mean this in the Silence of the Lambs way. Nope. Rather, take a minute to try to understand why a person says or does something. By internalizing this great piece of advice, I have been able to take what people say and do that could hurt or offend me and see it all from a different point of view. Comments take on new meaning when I know this person has suffered from abuse or neglect. Suggestions about how I should handle our open adoption fall on my ears differently when I know that this person’s sister placed a baby for adoption. And when I don’t know their situation, I assume the best. I tell myself that they have a life that has shaped them to have these opinions and they are coming from a place of love and concern, just trying to help a sister out.
When it comes to raising kids, no matter what their individual needs are, I have always felt that it’s important to take care of myself. I’m Mom. And if I’m going to be there for them, then I need to take protect myself emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. So, understanding that’s where I’m coming from, I have chosen to protect myself against any comments or perceived judgments.
First, if assuming the best and trying to see their point of view doesn’t work, I remind myself that the frustration isn’t worth it. Ultimately I am harming myself if I choose to let their words have a lasting effect on me. This also take practice, but I choose a healthy heart and mind and try to push those feelings away. Yep. Sometimes it’s easier to tell myself “that person has a problem” and just move on.
At times, protecting myself means that I stand up for myself, my kids, my family, my practices, my my my. Assuming the best, choosing to look from a different perspective, and brushing off the hurt doesn’t mean I have to be a pushover. There are times when we all need to use our voice and call others out. It doesn’t have to mean, but we learn from our experiences. And perhaps this offensive offender hasn’t ever had anyone tell them that they are kinda sorta out of line. Or maybe just not enough people have told them so it hasn’t sunk in yet. There have certainly been occasions when I have used my voice to let others know that, though I respect their opinion, it’s not how I choose to live my life.
All of these methods I use have molded me into a stronger and happier person. I feel more firm in my convictions while also feeling more compassionate for others and more open to their ideas. So, I guess I feel like I’ve kinda won the battle of becoming unoffendable. Rarely am I hurt and because of that, I feel more open to share our experiences with others . . . hopefully allowing for more opportunities to learn and grow with those around me. It makes me happy.