Have you noticed how taking things personally makes the world a better place? Have you noticed how much it strengthens relationships and builds trust while showcasing the beauty of grace?
Oh wait – that is exactly the opposite of what it does! My bad.
Years ago while attending a women’s church event, I, being a veteran at the church, intentionally focused on one of the newbies, who I will call Miss Newbie 1, trying to make her feel included and welcomed. We had great conversation and I really enjoyed getting to know her.
Weeks later, another church lady, who I will call Miss Newbie 2, and I were spending some time together trying to develop a friendship. During our conversation, she mentioned my actions at the women’s event. Apparently Miss Newbie 2 had been near me at the women’s event and I had not pursued her. My unfriendliness towards her had offended her. As she relayed her perspective to me several weeks after the event, I was shocked. As I reflected, I could not even remember her being at the event and knew that any lack of communication with her had only been because my focus was on Miss Newbie 1 and was absolutely nothing personal towards this other woman. After assuring Miss Newbie 2 that my lack of friendliness had been nothing personal, our conversation continued.
Both ladies have since left that church. Miss Newbie 1 and I have stayed in contact. Unsurprisingly, Miss Newbie 2 and I have not.
Fast forward to a time when I was the newbie at a church. Once again I attended a women’s event. Though I had met many, many were still basically strangers. We were all getting food in a buffet line and randomly sitting down at a long table to quickly eat before the teaching time began. One woman, who I had yet to officially meet but was hoping to get to know, came and sat down right next to me. This veteran of the new church immediately started engaging in conversation – only not with me. Her full and complete attention was on the lady directly across from her. As I waited to be acknowledged, the wait only awkwardly lengthened. Feeling strangely invisible, I wondered what to do. Then a voice, probably the same voice that had convincingly spoken to Miss Newbie 2, confidently whispered in my head instructing me to take it personally.
Thankfully in this moment of temptation, I quickly recognized the pit I was about to fall into and turned to the better alternative: taking it to the Lord. A quick prayer asking God to help me not take it personally solved the problem. As the two ladies continued their conversation, I turned my attention to the ladies in front of me and to my other side. We had a nice conversation. Another day, Lord-willing, I will become better acquainted with Miss Veteran.
Shortly after this situation, the above memory from years ago suddenly popped up in my mind. For the first time, I felt I could understand what Miss Newbie 2 had experienced. But nothing personal had taken place. Same with me now that I was the newbie. I had no idea what Miss Veteran had going on in her life. I had no idea when she had last had an opportunity to talk to the lady sitting across from her. What I did know was that I could trust that it was not at all personal. For reasons only God knows, that day was not our day. My guess is once I do have a chance to talk to her she probably will not even remember me sitting next to her that day. Just like I did not remember Miss Newbie 2 being present. My focus had been elsewhere. This veteran was the same.
If I had one message I could drill into those of us who are tempted to take things personally, which is perhaps all of us, it would be, “Don’t take it personally; take it to the Lord.”
In the moment of temptation, take it immediately to God in prayer. Ask Him to keep you from taking it personally. Ask Him what you should think or do instead. Assume the best about people. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Then redirect your attention to something else that you can or should do in the situation.
Life is hard enough for all of us. Let’s not make it harder by taking things personally.
This is a terrific reminder! I’ve been a member of my church for almost 2 years but sometimes feel like an outsider because of the deep-roots that many families have in the community and the church. I’ve definitely had to put myself out there to make connections and sometimes I’ve wondered why certain people don’t open up or engage in conversation with me. I definitely need to take it to God when these situations happen. It’s also an opportunity for me to break out of my shell and keep trying! It’s also been a lesson to engage with those who are new because I know how that feels. I have made some great connections with others in the church and some newer members. But yes, we should take it to the Lord and not take it personally. Thanks for your post!
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Thank you for your comment! Sounds like you are learning a lot in your current season of life! Press on!
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