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You know how some people just have a knack for offending people? Most of the time they don’t mean to offend anyone, but they always seem to have their foot in their mouth. When people walk off in a huff or confront them about it, they stand there, mouth agape, going “What did I say/do now?” Whether it’s talking about how bad your children are, how contradictory your behavior is, telling you your hair is a mess or that you’ve put on weight, they always seem to say the wrong thing. They appear to think honesty is the best policy, and the more blunt the observance is, the better. Unless you say “Be honest with me” or “tell me what you really think about…,” you really don’t want all of that honesty. But who really has the problem?

Yes, some people are hopelessly rude and some of those rude people relish their rudeness. However, many of us are too busy being defensive to realize maybe we need to hear some of the things they are saying, no matter how callously the wisdom is being imparted.

My minister was preaching about some harsh realities on Sunday. He was saying that if Jesus was alive in our day and time, he wouldn’t be popular with Christians today. There are things he asks us to do that we simply don’t want to adhere to, and not all of them are the sins we immediately point to, such as not fornicating or committing murder. Jesus is concerned with the heart as much as, or even more so, than the actions/acts that people perform to show their Christianity. I’m paraphrasing (it is Wednesday, y’all), but my minister said something along the lines of “stop being so easily offended and defensive. Don’t get defensive about everything. Think about it and take it in.”  

This was brought home to me watching “The Braxton Family Values” last night. The Braxtons are dealing with some major issues, specifically Trina. Everyone is worried about Trina. Trina has been drinking heavily and seems to be having trouble with her marriage. She got a DUI at the beginning of the episode. She’s put on twenty pounds. She doesn’t want her family in her business. Of course, all of this leads her family to speak to the family therapist.

When Trina is confronted by them, she deflects everything they say. “Mothers worry. She’s my mom and I’m a mother. That’s what we do: worry,” she dismisses her mother’s concerns. As the particularlyvocal.com (show inside joke) Tamar “goes in” on all of the recent causes for alarm with Trina, including Trina’s husband, Trina shuts down and deflects even more. “I can handle my problems,” she says. “Stay out of my business.” “I feel attacked and ambushed.”

As heartily as I disagree with the mountain lion-esque pounce of Tamar’s attack, she was telling her sister some home truths. Getting a DUI is not being in control. Drinking heavily is not solving your problems; it’s running away from them. Many of us are too busy shooting the messenger to receive the message.

I’m a sensitive person. It’s easy to hurt my feelings. But I’m also an introspective person. I turn over every criticism in my mind and evaluate the validity of it. One of the reasons I haven’t put aside The Denzel Principle is because I can chew it over mentally and really search out if there’s any validity in the statements. If there is, what can we do about it? If there isn’t, what causes the author to reach this conclusion? 

The summer after I graduated high school, my dad came to take me to a Day on Campus. I had called him and asked him to come and take me because I thought it would give us a chance to bond. I had to pick a date, sign up, and spend the day on campus, registering for classes, getting my school ID, and etc. I kept calling my dad to set up a date, but he was never sure of his schedule.

 One day, he just called and said he was at my house (I was across the street at an aunt’s house). He was all set and ready to go. The problem was we weren’t signed up for a date, and I couldn’t just show up. My dad and I had a big disagreement over it. I had Pink Susie call him, as my mother and I weren’t able to say anything to him about it without being deflected. He had lived with her from the time he was a teenager to adulthood, so I figured she could get through to him.

My dad was livid. “Listening to your mother and your aunt, you’re going to wind up stuck in [my hometown] pregnant!” I can’t remember all of the things he said, but that one stuck out. I was hurt, and angry, and ready to immediately reject the statement out of hand. Instead, like these things tend to do, it seeped into my mind. I had to look it head on and ask myself, was he right?

Of course, the answer was no. Even if I were to be stuck in my hometown, I had given myself to Christ five years beforehand. It was always a priority for me to save myself until marriage, “stuck” in a dying town or not. If I had to stay where I was, there was a great school not far from home. I could get to the Day on Campus with him, or I’d get there without him.

I went to Day on Campus with my Aunt Jacquie (who was so instrumental in my life, and someone I miss very much) and everything worked out fine. My dad and I have a better relationship now. I’m twenty-six with no children and no prospects (LOL). I have my degree, a job, and live in a completely different state. My dad’s words didn’t apply to me, but I’m glad I didn’t dismiss them out of hand. They would have always been back there haunting me if I hadn’t confronted that assertion head on.

The fact is, some of you have unruly children. You are making poor decisions. You think you are living how God wants you to and you’re not. True, not everything someone has to say about you is true, and not all criticisms or advice they think pertains to you truly does, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it without examination. This is especially true if you keep hearing the same things from different people.

I have a friend, Dawn*, who asked me once if I thought she was…let’s just say, a mean female person. She had lost some friends and had been told she was offensive, etc. She was just being honest, in her opinion, and was wondering if there was something wrong with her. After all, it can’t be all of them. I told her honesty is good; I wouldn’t encourage anyone to lie. However, maybe a different approach was needed.

Ultimately, after some self introspection, she decided she was who she was, and that whole “tell the truth in love” thing didn’t always work for her. To me, that’s fine. She looked at what people had to say, examined herself, tried something new, and ultimately decided that she was more comfortable with the way she was originally.

Bottom line: Don’t just take a defensive stance when someone has a criticism or observance of you that’s unfavorable. Don’t spend so much time feeling attacked and defensive, deflecting and dismissing the possibility that there’s any truth to what’s being said. Allow yourself to take it in. Work with what applies to you and dismiss what doesn’t. Don’t let your pride or your hurt feelings keep you from growing into a better person and correcting things in your life. Don’t let feeling ambushed keep you from getting the help you need.

At least, that’s my two cents. Leave yours in the comment section.    

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