When People Judge You: Six Things I’ve Learned
Some seasons in life are bleaker than others. Some places you’re called to are harder than others, and some people you know will hurt you more than others.
We’ve all been there before. The terrain is arid and untilled. Even downright hostile. In fact, the gossip and suspicion can last so long that you swear it’s going to be the end of you.
This is life. And lately, I’ve been reflecting on these unfortunate experiences we all have in common and how being on the receiving end of other’s judgment can actually grow our character and wisdom.
I surely don’t know everything, but here are the six things I’ve learned so far:
1: You know they’re wrong.
How many times have you ever been 100% correct about something you only knew 10% about? Never. That’s the answer. At least I know that’s the truth for me. I often tell my students, “Don’t make someone else’s life a paragraph.” In other words, don’t boil down what little you know about someone to a sound-bite. Their life is far more precious than that. And don’t they deserve more than the worst version of you? I can’t possibly know anything true about someone I haven’t spent time with myself. Anything other than that is just gossip. So when someone judges you, without knowledge of you or your story, remember that they are wrong—not you. But also remember that you, like them, most often only know the 10%, so when you make assumptions about others, you are probably wrong, too. Let’s face it, as humans, we are wrong a lot. It’s so much better to stand firm in our own ignorance than it is to repeat the gossip of others. And if you’re the one being judged, it’s so much more tolerable when you realize just how wrong the gossips are.
2: What they say about you says more about them.
That’s right. The rumor-mill is swirling. “They”—whoever “they” are—say you aren’t worth it, they call you names, they say you don’t belong… And sure, maybe someone will believe them, but the reality is, there are many more ears listening, and those ears will realize, as wise ears often do, that the very people who espouse to be so infinitely knowledgeable about you are, in fact, far worse than what they say you are. What irony, that their pitiful attempt to define you is actually a sublime exercise in defining themselves. So what do you do in the meantime? Turn the other cheek, dear one. Keep your nose clean and your chin held high. It will all work out in the fullness of time, as they say. Whoever “they” are.
3: The bright side is that you’re on their bad side.
With an enemy like this, imagine what damage would be done if they were a false friend. Consider it a blessing to have such clarity on the content of their character. Be glad they’ve shown you their intentions. Cruel intentions gone unknown would hurt even more. I have to credit my sweet husband with this insight. He is so rational and discerning, and quite frankly, he steers me clear of the edge quite often. All of our lives, he’s reminded me that accepting the unfortunate realities of life is vital to moving on. So, yes, it hurts like heck when people betray you with their words or deeds, but how wonderful is it to know and accept the unpleasant reality, rather than living unwittingly among the lies?
4: They want to make you fall because you stand for something.
So consider their ire a compliment. Clearly, you’ve gotten their attention. Maybe you are too principled. Too nuanced. Too smart. Too driven. Too talented. Too unique. Too bold. The list can go on forever. From what I can tell, people love boxes… And if they can’t put you in one, I can promise you they will try to find a way. They’ll call you names. Try to catch you slipping up. Fabricate stories. Coax others to do the same. They will want to see you fall simply because you STAND. So what do you do? Just. Keep. Standing. It’s really that simple. There’s a great verse in the Bible my mother has quoted to me during the tragedies I’ve endured in my life—just like many of you—and it says this: “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. And after you have done everything, stand. Stand firm…” I love this. This very line has saved my life. All we need to do is stand. God takes care of the rest.
5: Their judgment sets your stage.
There is great irony in this. Gossips spread gossip to tear people down. People judge people because they fear what they don’t understand. Now people are paying attention, and this turmoil sets the stage. But the stage isn’t theirs to control; it’s yours, dear one. They have propped you up in the center, stage-lights glaring on you, not them. They have spread your name. They have stirred the masses. What will you do with this opportunity? Will you buckle? Or disappear? Or will you soar? I hope you choose to SOAR. I hope you realize that this is a precious opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong. To bring your truth to the forefront. To fully realize what God made you to do. “They” may have set the stage, but what you do with it is entirely up to you. And to reference one quote I’ve clung to over the years: “Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, no one would believe it.” There is nothing more sweet than living well.
6: Their judgment shouldn’t be a surprise.
This is where I’m going deep… Stay with me, please? It’s something spiritual I’ve been mulling over for some time as I try to be better. And my epiphany goes a little like this: Why on earth would I expect anything less than the harsh judgment of others? Why on earth am I so idealistic, still? Why am I alarmed? Surprised? Put off? Why should any of us be? We humans are all messed up. We sin. We screw up. We get it wrong. We got it so wrong—in fact—that we crucified the savior of the world for His boldness, radicalism, and grace. We literally hung Him on a cross for it. And HE was the perfect one. The physical embodiment of God. The closest thing we’d ever have to knowing Heaven this side of things. And YET—we brought the ultimate judgment on Him: an unrighteous, agonizing death. I am nothing compared to Him. I am so far away from His standard of grace, so far away from his perfection. I shouldn’t expect anything better than what He received. And whether you believe in the greatest story ever told or not, I hope we can at least agree on the fact that we humans have a lot to learn, so much to aspire to. And because of that, we ought to be gentle with one another. And maybe one day we will finally get it right. But in the meantime, the judgments of others shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
And if what I said means nothing, I’ll close with someone much wiser than me. It’s a poem that has carried me through many points where I wanted to give up:
Do It Anyway
By Mother Teresa
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.
Photography credit: Phinney Photography