Recently when I asked a friend for a tip about marriage to share with others, she said, “Don’t take things personally.”
Although this problem has caused conflicts in my marriage and other relationships, when this friend said those words, I recalled an incident in church that happened years ago which I took personally.
On this particular Sunday, an emotional issue came up in the car on the way to church between one of my daughters and myself. During the service I whispered a few times to her. She whispered back. Then I turned to my older daughter and made a short comment about something else. She answered briefly.
Suddenly the man in front of us whirled around and gave an if-looks-could-kill” nasty look and hissed at my older daughter to shut up. For some reason he focused on her even though she’d only said a few words.
“If you can’t keep your trap shut,” he whispered harshly as he glared at her, “then you should go and stay in the nursery.”
“There are people in this church who want to hear what the preacher has to say,” he added, and then whipped himself back in his seat to face the front of the church.
The irony was that my daughter was struggling in her faith and had been considering never going to church again because of how she’d been hurt by Christians (because she also took things personally). On this Sunday I had talked her into attending.
After the service I apologized for disturbing him and took responsibility for initiating conversations with my daughters in church. Instead of saying, “And I’m sorry I blasted you,” to my daughter, the man and his wife defended his ungodly behavior revealing that he worked with teens during the week and didn’t want to have them disturbing him in church.
The reason I eventually concluded I had a problem with taking things personally is that I couldn’t shake off what happened for quite awhile. The memory of that incident has risen to the surface in my mind and stung me anew many times over, even though my daughter got over it and has even been in the home of this man and his wife for a Bible study they taught.
I’ve realized the main reason I don’t just “let things go,” but take them personally is that I got caught up in focusing on myself. As one writer put it:
“Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me.’”
The Bible offers a solution to my taking-things-personally problem.
…I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance] Romans 12:3 AMP
When I’m in a godly frame of mind, instead of thinking “it’s all about me,” or “all my fault,” my heart is overwhelmed with compassion for those who lash out in anger. I think of how hurt they must be to overreact like they do. Instead of saying in my mind, “How could they treat me like that?” I’m learning to pray, “Lord, please intervene in their lives” and “Empower me to treat them kindly.”
Taking things personally is about my being hypersensitive to the actions of others and thinking I’m the one who caused their bad behavior.
My life is more peaceful as I’m learning to let go of this taking things personally frame of mind. I’m obsessing less and having more empathy toward others.
How about you? Do you find yourself taking things personally and being unable to shake it off after others behave badly? Bring this issue to the Lord, and He will help you to respond with compassion.