A friend recently shared with me how he still remembers being labeled “fat” while in middle school. As he told me stories of mean kids saying mean things to him, I could see the hurt on his face, even after all of these years, as he vividly described to me their words, actions and even their names.
Have you ever been labeled – different? Odd? Weird? A freak? If you have, then you know this kind of pain that often cuts to the very core of who you are. Prejudice and hate comes in all shapes and sizes. Making fun of people because of the way the talk or look; bullying another because of his/her size or unique features; spreading negativity because of a religious belief or the color of one’s skin.
You probably see examples of subtle prejudices every day. Beautiful and successful people are plastered across the covers of magazines, featured in commercials, and idolized in music videos. There is often an unspoken social class system in our culture in which we play the rating game to determine a person’s value based on how they measure up. There is also the spoken one, sometimes even by a friend, who says something such as “you’re having a bad hair day,” or “it looks like you’ve put on a few pounds.”
I’m realizing more and more in my own life the power of words. And, I’m trying to be more intentional about using words that lift others up rather than tear them down. This isn’t easy, particularly when someone says something to me that I don’t like or disagree with. Lets face it, when another speaks words that are hurtful or condescending, typically the initial (and feel good) reaction is one of retaliation, isn’t it?
Being the one in the conversation who chooses to stop the labeling, criticizing, judging and condemning isn’t an art easily mastered overnight. But, I am learning that the more I do it, the better I get at it. And, the better I feel about me, no matter what others say about me.
The next time you are a recipient of a negative or hateful comment, try this:
- Follow-up the negative with the positive. Say something encouraging and uplifting about the person making the comment.
- If a friend makes a negative comment to you about another person, defend that person by saying someone positive about him/her.
- Ignore the comment or act like it didn’t faze you.
- Tell the person who made the comment that you disagree or that you are choosing to see the better in others rather than the bad in others.
- Walk away.
You can’t control the actions of others. You can control how you respond to the actions of others. Work at taking the high road. It may not be the most popular one traveled. But, choosing to travel it will be a trip worth taking!