Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what
they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
― Luke 23:44
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
― 1 Corinthians 13:11
Not taking things personally is a true sign of maturity.
People will love you, people will hate you, and none of it will have anything to do with you.
You come into the world taking everything personally. It’s called “ego-centric thinking,” and it will haunt you for the rest of your life.
It is one of the most important thinking styles to overcome while you’re here. Sadly, too many people not only don’t overcome this distorted style of thinking but get more deeply in bondage to it.
When you arrive on the planet, you think everything is about you somehow. Not only do you think that you’re the center of the universe in terms of your needs being the most important thing, but you take how others treat you as if that is about you as well.
If you grow up in a loving family, your childhood egocentrism leads you to think that this was about you and that you must be pretty awesome (“These people think I’m pretty awesome, so I must be pretty awesome!”).
If you grew up in an abusive family, your childhood egocentrism leads you to think this was about you and that you must be pretty awful (“These people treat me like dirt, so I must be nothing more than dirt!”).
How a child grows to view themself is foundationally tied to how their egocentrism interacts with their upbringing.
You munchkins are blessed because you have parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who think your awesome and treat you that way. Couple that with your egocentrism (thinking that how we treat you is a reflection of your awesomeness rather than a reflection of how awesome we are), and you’re getting a pretty good head start on a deep-seated sense of worth and value as you move forward in life.
Call all of us today and thank us for that.
Nevertheless, even when you’re raised in a loving family environment, you’re fallen mind is still going to take a lot of things personally in life. Especially when people mistreat you, you’re going to be tempted to fall back into taking what they did (sins of commission) and didn’t do (sins of omission) as if it was all about you.
Doing that only sets the stage for you to badly react to what others do and become part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Given that people are going to treat us the way they treat us and that we take things way too personally, let me give you some tips on what to do about it.
Tip #1: Remember that people’s actions are about them and not you. Marc and Angel Chernoff said, “Don’t take other people’s negativity personally. Most negative people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with. What they say and do is a projection of their own reality – their own attitude. Even when a situation seems personal – even if someone insults you directly – it oftentimes has nothing to do with you. Remember, what others say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.”
Tip #2: Try to listen to the pain behind the mistreatment. When people treat us badly, they are usually acting out the hurt they feel in their life. Everyone has some degree of woundedness in their lives, and, when they act out their woundedness at our expense, we need to be mature enough to try to see what’s underneath their hurtful actions. Vironika Tugaleva wisely observed, “When someone is cruel, harsh, mean, to not take their words personally is one thing, but to hear the silent cry within those words is another. This sort of perspective can not only liberate us from crippling self-doubt in the face of criticism, it can also liberate us from automatically becoming blind participants in the interaction patterns that the cruel person has become accustomed to—a favour we do for the other person as much as for ourselves.”
Tip #3: Know yourself. One of the most important keys to not taking things personally is to know yourself well enough that you can “metabolize” people’s criticisms and attacks. Kovie Biakolo said, “Introspection and giving yourself adequate time to get to know yourself is also key to not taking things personally. You know your strengths and weaknesses; you know the things that you need to change and the things that you do well. When you know yourself better than anyone, you have clarity about whether the statements people make are honestly about you or are really, just about them. In the wisdom of introspection, you’ll find that what most people say reveals who they are, not who they think others are.”
Tip #4: Square up with the truth of what they’re saying. It is important that when others mistreat you that you try to listen for any truth in what they’re saying while putting an assertive stop to how they’re saying it. Kim Giles said, “You should always be willing to take a look at yourself and honestly assess if there is any truth to what they say. If there is truth, you may want to learn from this, commit to do better, and then let go of the offense because holding on to it won’t serve anyone.”
Don’t let how hurtfully people say the things they do get in the way of honest self-examination and what you need to work on in life.
Munchkins, when you were a child, you thought and reasoned like a child. As you move away from childhood toward adulthood, put away childish things, especially the tendency to take things personally. There is so much emotional and relational freedom waiting for you if you can learn to not take what people say and do personally while being mature enough to hear the truth of what you need to work on in how you interact with others.