Sometimes people say things that are plain upsetting. I am easily upset, too, because I’m a very sensitive guy from being criticized, devalued and squelched for a good part of my formative years.
That’s why when yesterday at lunch I had a struggle – and an opportunity “not to take it personally” and to forgive.
Someone said, “friends and couples often look like each other,” and I responded, yes that’s true! Just look at my friend here – people think we look alike!” My friend immediately curled up his face and said, “Geez. I’m not that ugly!”
I instantly felt insulted. In a nanosecond I thought that my friend was saying that I was ugly, and he didn’t ever want to have any connection with my awful looks.” I imploded with shame and embarrassment.
Swirls of inferiority juices welled-up and circulated through my nervous system. I felt that sinking humiliation, like a downward spiral to Hades. I’ve learned, though, that I am indeed overly sensitive. In times like those, I have to not let my inferiority emotions take over, and run the conversation, as I’ve often made things worse, put people on the defensive, and grew to feel really, really awful.
So I just took a deep breath. I ran my emergency emotional instruction software, making sure to not criticise him, or wound in angry defense. “Surely you don’t mean me,” I said, giving him a comfortable out. “Yep. Don’t want to look like you!” My friend of many years said with a smile and a laugh. That made me feel worse. But it was just a guy jesting thing. No big deal.
“Surely you don’t mean to insult me.” I went a bit further. “Aw, you’re so sensitive. So high drama!” Another friend at the table uttered.
Instead of going into a major feeling of being crushed, insult to injury, I decided to say to myself, “Don’t take this personally. They’re just joking and having fun. They don’t mean it. These are my friends, and they love me.” I said it over and over again. I also said to myself that they’re “probably projecting their own feelings of ugliness and inferiority onto me.” That’s what years of therapy is good for! Reminding myself that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I know I’m not ugly, truth be told.
I prayed a lot over this moment, asking God to help me forgive them. Asking God to help me forgive myself, and to feel better.
God, show me the way. Let me not be alone with these difficult emotions. God, I need you. God, I love you. And I know you love me.
It was actually fun to forgive, ultimately, and not hold a grudge, like I might have done years ago.
It felt even better, to not overeat to feel better. Thank God.