What To Do When Other People’s Words Leave You Feeling Bad
Traci Rhoades is a fellow Protestant lover of the Church. Like myself, she has grealy enjoyed embracing traditions of the Christian faith that she did not grow up with and trying to piece together a fuller picture of what God intends for His people. Her wisdom never fails to stop and grab ahold of my heart. You can find her words below and, more regularly, on her site Traces of Faith.
I could tell by the way she repositioned herself in the chair across from me, I’d hit a nerve. We’d been talking about the choice we have to discount the negative words others spew on us. Accusations spoken. Snarky texts we read again and again. We don’t have to take on these hateful, harmful words, not even from our loved ones. For believers, it’s about more than channeling self-help, because we get to ask the Holy Spirit to help us with these struggles. Who needs the power of positive thinking when you can call on the God of the whole universe for assistance?
She spoke up, explaining her problem. “I know what I should do when my feelings are hurt. I surrender the situation to God in prayer, but I find myself still stewing over the hurtful words. It’s not easy to just get over it.”
We were in Bible study, seated among a group of women, and as you can imagine, we all wanted to help. It’s what women do after all. I told her about how I try to keep a teachable spirit, so the first thing I do is look for any truth I need to hear from the words. Even though I might not feel like hearing them, I ask the Holy Spirit to show me any helpful insight. From there, I gain some control. I can choose what parts of a conversation apply to me, and what parts are the responsibility of the deliverer. Maybe the words came out of their own bad day, or things they need to work on personally.
Another lady spoke about the times she feels a confrontation is warranted. Sometimes hard conversations need to happen. If so, she waits until her initial strong feelings have subsided. A calm conversation where you can relay your response to the hurtful words without adding fuel to the fire, so to speak. She asks the Holy Spirit to allow his fruit to work in the situation; love, patience, self-control… and the others we read in Galatians 5:22-23.
Our group offered some good advice, but I left feeling as if the conversation lacked a certain element of value. Our Bible study time should offer practical advice, and I could sense there was more to offer.
In the next few days, God revealed the larger truth. It is important to respond well when we feel hurt or frustrated. More important, though, is the health of our spirit before the hurtful words arrive. What kind of soil do these seeds of recrimination land on when they’re hurled in our direction?
Scripture tells us about the morning routine of Jesus.
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Mark 1:35 (NASB)Throughout the day, if I start to feel anxious, and my soul grows unsettled, I pray again. I’ll visualize putting on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or recite the Jesus Prayer Click To Tweet
While I don’t always get up before dark, I too find a quiet place and begin my day with prayer. Then, with my second cup of coffee, I read my Bible. Throughout the day, I read articles and listen to music that keeps my spirit filled up. My friends and family lovingly support me. The community I surround myself with at church each Sunday recharges me as well. The list of intentional soul nourishment goes on and on.
Then, throughout the day, if I start to feel anxious, and my soul grows unsettled, I pray again. I’ll visualize putting on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or recite the Jesus Prayer (Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner). Any way I can find to recenter my thoughts on God.
As I mature in my faith, I find if I cultivate enough loving words about my worth in Christ, I don’t have much space left for the harsh words of man.As I mature in my faith, I find if I cultivate enough loving words about my worth in Christ, I don’t have much space left for the harsh words of man. Click To Tweet
You might note how often I’ve used the word feelings in this story. They play a big part in our response to others, right? Disciplining yourself to be surrounded with the things of God before you start each week, before you start your day, before you respond to any situation, goes a long way in combating the influence feelings have over you.
That’s the advice we were missing. I can’t solve my friend’s issue of continuing to feel bad about the words she hears from other people. She likely will hear negative words again sooner rather than later. We all do. However, if her heart is already all filled up, if the fertile soil of her soul has been planted with loving words from her Savior, there won’t be room for the hurtful words to take root and grow.