What Others Think…
From my earliest recollections, I’ve desired to please people, to make them happy. When people were unhappy with me, I felt very sad, even worthless.
Here’s one example that sticks in my memory. I’ll never forget a certain day in 7th grade. I attended a tiny Christian school. I felt awkward, ugly, and out of place. But I’m smart. That was my label growing up. My good grades defined me and were what brought me praise. My intelligence made me special [I felt], and getting 100’s on tests made me feel happy and like I was worth something.
On this particular day, I took a spelling test.
Spelling has never been difficult for me, and I knew all of the spelling words. The only problem was that the teacher giving me the test had a thick Spanish accent coupled with what I now believe to be some sort of speech impediment. She pronounced a particular word, and I could not understand at all what she said. So I asked her to repeat the word. She did, and I still did not understand it. I was too shy and embarrassed to ask for further clarification so I wrote down the word that I understood her to say. When I got the graded test, that word was the only incorrect answer on the whole test. I had spelled correctly the word as I had understood it, but what I understood was not the word the teacher was saying. Upset that I had not gotten the grade I deserved, I found enough courage to speak with the principle teacher, who was also one of the founders of the school. With great internal fear and trembling, I explained the situation and was devastated by the teacher’s response. He angrily told me that he would not change my grade or give me a chance to demonstrate that I did know how to spell the word. I went back to my desk mortified and hurt. But the worst was yet to come. A week or two later, the founder/teacher who refused to listen to my plea spoke in chapel. He spoke about pride and arrogance. Then he gave an illustration of a student who had missed one question on a test and was so proud that she was certain she could not have made a mistake. Instead, he said, she blamed her error on the teacher, making excuses for why she didn’t really make that mistake. No one else knew he was using me as his illustration, but I knew. I felt humiliated, hopeless, helpless, beaten, discouraged, misunderstood, scorned, worthless, and more. I believed that what he said about me defined me. That "lesson" stuck with me for decades. I still fight against it, but I have learned to see it for the lie it is. Now, another's opinion about me doesn't define me. It's merely their thoughts, their opinion. I'm so thankful I found that freedom. I've needed it.
About a year ago, I learned that a former friend who had brutally ended our friendship had followed that betrayal by going to mutual friends and telling them lies about me.
She told them that she ended our friendship because I had an emotional affair with her. She told them I shared lesbian fantasies with her. She told them that my husband made me film porn for him. She said many other things- vicious, filthy lies about me and my family.
I only learned of these lies when a friend who had been told the lies asked me for my side of the story.
I felt angry, hurt, embarrassed, and more when I learned of the rumors that my former friend had spread. I wondered who she had spoken to. I wondered how many people believed her. I debated whether to try to fight against the lies.
In the end, I decided that I did not need to fight for myself. I have no control over what anyone says about me, good or bad. I have no control what anyone believes about me, good or bad. I can only control myself, and part of that control means letting go of the need to defend myself in an attempt to make sure everyone sees me in a good light.
I had and still have peace about that decision. Refusing to let the opinions and thoughts of others define me has brought me freedom that I cherish.
I hope that you know that freedom, too.
Revka Stearns is both an artisan and a wordsmith.
At Berries + Cream Designs, she hand crafts beautiful and meaningful jewelry for perfectly imperfect living.
At Hope Within the Storm, she shares her story and experiences in hopes of encouraging Christians living with or affected by mental illness.
Revka is the genius behind the jewelry line at the #DiscoverFreedomProject shop…mention “REVKA ROCKS” when you order and you will receive 15% off your order!