What goes through your mind when someone takes too long to respond to your email? Or they don’t reply to a text? Or their words come with a sharpness that pokes a tender area in your soul? You may find yourself wondering: What did they mean by that? Are they upset with me? Don’t they like me? What do they think about me?
If you’re someone who reads between the lines or find yourself taking things personally that weren’t intended for you, there’s hope! You can break free and live free while giving others the benefit of the doubt.
Stewing over others’ words or their non-responses is terrible for our mental and emotional health. To fret means to be visibly anxious. Another definition is to wear away at something by rubbing or gnawing (i.e., wearing down the carpet from pacing the same path again and again). Scripture tells us not to fret because it only leads to evil (see Psalm 37:8).
So how do we break free from our tendency to connect the dots and continually draw wrong conclusions?
Here are five simple reasons NOT to take things personally:
- It’s Usually Not Personal: People are often so burdened by their trials that they’re not thinking about us as much as we may imagine. How then shall we respond? We need to seek comfort from God—first and foremost—and then offer others the kind of comfort we’ve received from Him (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-5). When we focus upward and outward, we’re less inclined to be so negatively self-aware.
- It’s a Trap: The enemy knows what places in us still need healing and renewal. He knows where we’re weary, hurting, and vulnerable. He’s masterful at orchestrating circumstances designed to double us over. What to do? We raise our shield of faith (see Ephesians 6:16), and we refuse to take the bait. We find our joy in Christ and trust Him to tell us what’s true.
- Hurt people hurt people. Even if someone means to hurt us by their actions or their apathy, we must not allow it to damage our soul. Why shouldn’t we take it personally when someone intends it so? Because we belong to Jesus, and He taught us how to overcome. One of the signs of spiritual maturity is our ability to process our hurts in a Christlike way and come out the other side with a firmer grasp of what’s actually true.
- God Has Called You to Something Greater: God is always writing a bigger story than we can see at the moment. The devil works tirelessly to keep us in the smaller story of the daily dramas of life because he fears who we can become when we finally believe and walk in God’s purposes and promises for our lives. God wants to do in us and through us above and beyond all we could ever dare to ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20-22). Though it’s not always easy, we need to stay on mission, refuse distraction, and when we find ourselves looking inward in an unhealthy way, we need to step back and remind our souls that God is up to something good.
- God is Your Defender. Even when we deserve the negative, painful critique (of course, it’s wise to learn from it, but), we must know that God has promised to forgive us, cleanse us, and defend us before a watching world. He’s not looking for perfection. He loves it when we trust Him.
In Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, he reminds them who they are because of who Jesus is. This word is for us too. It’s a lengthy passage, but worth the read:
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.