Ever witnessed a group of people that seem like noisy, over-fed chickens? They flap their ‘feathers’ wildly and squawk about, showing off their knowledge, preening, posturing… indulging in delusions about themselves and the rest of their ‘coop’. These kinds of people love to gossip and make judgements on others’ lives, as if somehow they have the authority to do so…
Perhaps we’re all a bit like this, especially in those times we feel loneliness or weakness. Talking about others behind their backs – or letting a narky comment slip – might temporarily make us feel better about our pain, or relieve boredom – and make us feel like at least we know something others don’t.
I admire people for whom negative comments are water off a duck’s (chicken’s?) back, though they are probably fictional. You can’t be human if an ignorant assumption doesn’t get to you from time to time. I mean, many of us ignore massive abuse from our past for years without confronting it. Of course we’re going to have a sticks and stones mentality about people’s harsh words, just to protect ourselves.
Our family recently moved to a new area, which has meant lots of new social experiences. Most of them have been great, but there is one that stands out in my mind. I went along to a school parents’ group one day to try it out. It was a bit daunting as everyone seemed to already know each other, but the women were quite friendly. At one stage however, a mother of a Grade six boy launched into a tirade about one of the kids who’d been labelled in the playground as a bully. She called him some quite harsh names and made judgements about his parents… “Strange – his mum’s a lovely person… But maybe that’s the kid’s problem!… She needs a backbone!” she said.
This woman had been one of the friendlier mums – a dynamic person – so I really wanted to like her. But something inside me sank when she made those calls. It kind of jabbed at some of my own insecurities and issues… I dont know the parent and child she was talking about, but I started to imagine them discussing me in that way. It wouldn’t be far from the truth. My son has also had some behavioural difficulties, and in his first term of kindy he has already been blocked from the playground several times due to aggression problems. I’ve also struggled with assertiveness, so when I hear people make assumptions like that, it kind of cuts.
Being judgmental can really alienate us in relationships. People are less trusting if someone is always making superior-sounding calls on other people’s lives or situations.
I really want to be someone who doesn’t make assumptions about others. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk about our relational issues with someone close to us – but we kid ourselves if we think ‘filling people in’ or telling stories about others’ lives is a productive way to spend our time.
As for when people get to me with hurtful comments, I think it’s often best to address it lovingly in the context of a relationship. And it really takes the edge off the insult when I try and imagine the path they’ve walked. People aren’t rude or insensitive for no reason, and maybe they need love, and a bit of forgiveness and grace – or to be confronted with the truth. After all, it’s usually us sensitive types that are left with the wounds of other people’s comments. The talkers usually go ‘bleeargh!’ – and move on, unknowing!
Maybe it’s our insecurities that sometimes need another look too.. Why, oh why, is this person or these comments affecting me so much?… The last thing I want is to stay a wounded ‘victim’ of other people’s carelessness…
What I love about Jesus is that he had, and has, authority to judge the world – but to him, we’re all on a level playing field. None of us can measure up to his perfect standards – yet he chooses to offer us grace, love and forgiveness – no matter what we’ve done. This kind of puts it in perspective for me when I’ve felt hurt in some way. Not that I become a doormat – but when I think of all the stuff I’ve done to others – or against God – I realise he’s forgiven me SO much. I believe when you understand the depth of his love and mercy, it’s just that little bit easier to extend it to others.
And instead of spending my time carrying on about other people and their lives, I desire to choose again to sit at the feet of the one who made me, died for me, and has a beautiful, purposeful plan for my life. He will work the rest out, and deal with those that are against me. And as for me – I really do have better things to do – surely! – than speculating endlessly about others’ lives. Who am I to judge?
Lord, I hand all my hurt over to you – and help me not to make unjust assumptions about people. When I am wounded, help me to remember that you love me unconditionally, passionately, and without reservation – so it doesn’t really matter what others care to say 🙂 I am yours!
Can I leave you with this song by Casting Crowns? It’s called Who Am I.