“We don’t need you there.” A simple sentence. Five words. Five syllables. However, in my brain the interpretation of this sentence was anything but simple.
It unleashed a flood of uncertainty. My brain instantly fired off locator arrows that traveled to past rejections in my memory. Past hurt was pulled into this current conversation. Suddenly, I wasn’t hearing “We don’t need you there.” I was hearing, “You aren’t wanted.”
Rejection always wants to steal the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what’s been said to me.
The best of who I am was certainly not the one interpreting this comment.
The most hurt version of me took what was said and added pages of commentary. This additional dialogue highlighted my insecurities, brought to mind all the many reasons I was surely being excluded, and vilified the person who uttered those five words that started this whole thing.
Suddenly, this person was unsafe. She was insensitive. And worst of all, I pictured her rallying others to believe the worst about me as well.
I blinked back my tears. I swallowed the long-winded speech I was dying to spew in retaliation to her hurtful proclamation. And with a simple, “Okay,” I walked to my car.
Later that night I retold my husband the whole story. With great emotion and lots of added commentary, I gave him the play-by-play. Finally, I paused long enough to catch my breath and fully expected him to jump right in with a rally cry of absolute support and an offer to rush to my defense.
Instead he said, “Lysa, what else might she have meant by her statement? Is there any chance she didn’t intend to hurt you, but rather was just simply stating the fact that they had enough people participating and you didn’t have to feel the pressure to attend?”
I shot back, “Oh no, I’m telling you this was so much more than that.”
Right as I was about to unleash another dramatic retelling of the whole situation, he wrapped me in a hug and said, “Lysa, just make sure you aren’t holding her accountable for words she never said. She didn’t say you weren’t wanted. She didn’t say you weren’t capable. She didn’t say others were thinking the same way as her. She simply said they didn’t need you there.”
I wish I could tell you my attitude turned around immediately upon hearing his wisdom bomb. It didn’t. I continued to stew the rest of that night and may have given my sage husband the cold shoulder.
But the next morning, I dared to consider what he’d said. I called the gal who I’d spoken to the day before and asked a few questions. And in the end, I realized there was absolutely no agenda behind her statement at all.
In fact, she thought she was doing me a favor by assuring me that I wasn’t needed so that I wouldn’t feel pressure to have to be gone from home during that very busy season.
This situation happened 8 years ago, but I think about it often. It taught me 3 perspectives that I don’t want to forget:
1. When I’m tired or stressed, I’m more likely to interpret interactions with others way more emotionally than I should. Therefore, I should wait to respond until I’ve had a chance to rest and de-stress. A depleted girl can quickly become a defeated girl when she lets emotions dictate her reactions.
2. Believe the best before assuming the worst. Even if they didn’t have my best interest in mind, they probably didn’t have the worst intentions either. Regardless, being positive will keep me in a much better place.
3. Clarify. Clarify. Clarify. When in doubt, I should ask them to help me understand what they truly meant. And when I clarify I must recognize and resist adding any additional commentary my past hurt has added to this situation.
Can you think of a situation in your life where these perspectives might help? I certainly haven’t perfected making these perspectives the first thing I think of when I’m in an uncertain situation. But at least I do think of them. And that’s great progress, so feelings from yesterday’s rejections don’t take away from today’s relationships.