So this funny thing happens when you decide to really be you. Sometimes people don’t like it.
I know this, because I’ve spent an enormous amount of energy over the course of my life trying to get people to like me. Have you ever watched a dog competition? Living your life trying to get everyone to like you is a little like being a dog in a dog show. It’s like handing a leash to another person and then committing to do a bunch of tricks and turns in response to their moves. It’s acting and reacting in response to your owner, which is an interesting word to use when you think about it. If you are prone to use approval from others as your way of shaping your identity, “owner” might be just the right word.
Allowing our own identity to be “owned” by another’s approval might be one of the great reasons why it’s worth fighting against. I’ve learned the hard way that people’s approval cannot be the way I make decisions. First–because it’s exhausting to be a trained dog. Second–it never works. It has a 100% failure rate because no matter how hard I try, I cannot actually get everyone to like me.
Go ahead, say it out loud: “Self: Not everyone is going to like me.”
Whew, you did it. See? You didn’t spontaneously combust. You are still you, even if someone doesn’t like it. Baby steps.
Here’s three other ways to keep loving people even when they don’t like you:
#1: Treat them like a person
It’s easy to turn fast on that person that you wish would like you. It’s easy to all of a sudden start talking about all the identity issues, character issues, life issues and general ugliness of the other person because they don’t like you. This is not pretty, people. Don’t forget that the person who doesn’t like you, no matter how ugly they are being, is a person with real feelings and hurts and reasons why they act the way that they do. Don’t turn on them. Don’t answer crazy with crazy, as tempting as it might be. This means don’t call them out on Facebook, don’t insult them back (in your heart or out loud) don’t talk about their problems in a way that sounds like you actually care for them when in reality you are just really mad. That’s how we answer crazy with crazy and friend, it really doesn’t suit you. So look for the best in them and pray (ALOT) for God to give you enough love to override your hurt.
#2: Remember your why
When someone criticizes your work or attacks your character, remember why you do what you do. What was your motive for your actions or work? Is it good? Is it motivated by love? Is it worth doing? Sometimes a little criticism can help us know what we actually care about (and what we don’t). For instance, I once wrote a post about Beyonce. (If you want to get some criticism, criticize Beyonce) In the midst of combing through a bunch of comments about that article, I found myself thinking about why I wrote what I wrote, and if I would do it again. (I would). It’s easy to deceive ourselves about the why if we don’t examine our motives with rigorous honesty. I could have written about Beyonce as a quick way to get blog traffic (if you want blog traffic, also write about Beyonce). But the criticism helped me stop and make sure I was writing for good reasons. So use that criticism as a self-examination, and let it work for good!
#3: Walk On
One of the worst energy-sucking experiences in life is ruminating on negativity. It’s easy to get stuck on #2, remembering our why over and over and over, analyzing our words or actions over and over and over. That’s why I love this passage in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me…” Step #2 was about clearing our conscience, Step #3 is about leaving it there. One of the greatest tests of character is the ability to love someone even when they criticize or insult you. Don’t give them the leash and put them in charge of your attitude or your reaction.
I have to quote Marianne Williamson here because this is worth reading every single day:
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us…
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So shine on, friends. Let the criticism purify your calling. Let the resistance you feel, within you or outside of you, be a reminder that at the end of the our lives, we will all be called to account for our own actions. Don’t play small today. Don’t be a dog on a leash. Be you, all of you, unleashed and stretching into all God’s made you to be.