I am not responsible for how other people perceive me.
This is a lesson I am still grappling with. It goes against my very nature. I am a people person; I love being around people, learning from them, and sharing with them. I am naturally a person who loves to make others happy. I worry for people and I tend to spew affection onto my loved ones. When they return this gesture, I am filled.
Age has taught me a hard lesson. No matter how nice you are, no matter how much you love others, no matter how much you strive to live peaceably and beyond reproach…there will come a time when someone will not like you. Sometimes it may be your fault. Oftentimes there is something you can do to repair it. But there will come a time when it is not your fault and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it.
Nothing. You. Can. Do.
This is the part I struggle with. I want to fix it. I want to understand it. I want to dig deep into the wound and pinpoint whatever tiny splinter began the quandary and pull it out. I will work at the relationship tirelessly. I will communicate…and communicate some more…and over-communicate to the point of self-abasement. I will bleed out my heart and bare it, dry and cracked, desperate for the balm of understanding. This is my nature. This is also my blunder.
It is not my job to make people like me. It is not my job to force them to understand me and accept me as I am. It is my job to love them. Pure and simple. Love them. Regardless of how they treat me, regardless of whether they appreciate me. It is my job to treat them fairly, with kindness and respect. It is also my job to follow God and obey His calling, even when doing so may upset others. When they fail to see my heart, mistake my intentions, and even choose to slander me based upon their own false views of who I am. This hurts. It has happened to me, and it hurts.
What I have learned in the depths of that pain is that I must give the controls to God. There are some things I simply cannot fix. As much as I want to, as much as I feel I NEED to. Sometimes, I must give it up. I must pour out my heart to my Father in Heaven, lay the whole ball of humiliation, misery, and helplessness at His feet, and know that it is now His. He will take the load. He will bear the burden. I need only follow Him and live as He asks, and He will consume all the hurt feelings so they no longer eat me alive.
This is so hard for me! I always wanted to fix it. I wanted to force it to work, with my own power and resolve. But that is not what God wishes for me. All He wants from me is a life surrendered. An unclenched fist that relinquishes my control. He wants a heart that chases after Him freely, with no loose ends. This sometimes means letting go. Accepting that you will at times be misunderstood and disliked. Doing all you can to love others more than yourselves, and seeking reconciliation. But when the other party refuses to rectify, accepting their stance and leaving it to God.
You are not responsible for how other people perceive you. Sometimes as Christians I think we get it in our heads that if we are “good” Christians, everyone will like us. But one look through the Bible quickly checks such thinking. Look at the prophets. Look at the disciples. Look at Jesus himself! They continually dealt with the outright hatred of others. Being a faithful follower of Christ does not guarantee that you will be liked, understood, and treated fairly. It merely means that you will not let the opinions of others deter you from staying on the path God has given you. From becoming the man or woman He has called you to be. From sharing God’s truth, even when there’s a risk it may offend others. And it means you’ll do something truly outrageous – in the face of disrespect, slander, bullying, and even hatred, you will not retaliate in kind. You will simply love.
So the next time you feel someone has an unfair problem with you, first check yourself. Be honest and examine your heart and your motives. Pray that God would reveal anything you may have done, and repent for it. Ask others you respect to review the situation and expose any wrongdoings they believe you have done. Seek to reconcile with the person, and ask forgiveness for what sins you have done against them. Be willing to humble yourself. But if after that they refuse to accept your reconciliation attempts, and continue to dislike you, let it go. Give it to God. Forgive them even when they fail to recognize or admit what they have done. Remember that it is not your responsibility to make others like or understand you. In the midst of their disregard, pray for them, love them, and (sing with me, now) LET IT GO!