Several weeks ago I clicked on an article called “There’s a Lady at the Gym Who Hates Me.” In it, author Lysa TerKeurst describes an incident on side-by-side elliptical machines that caused an intimidating woman at the gym to leave her machine and huff over to the treadmill. “I think she’s hated me ever since,” TerKeurst declares.
As I read about the incident, similar occurrences in my own life rushed to mind. The coworker who seemed a bit too critical of my work. The church leader who didn’t take time to ask how I’d been. The friend who seemed to shut down my attempts at getting together. It’s easy to internalize these “slights” and assume the worst.
But one day, something happened to the author that totally changed her perspective on her “gym-nemy.”
She smiled at me.
It wasn’t an evil, I’m-about-to-whip-your-tail-on-the-gym-floor kind of smile. It was more like an, “Oh hey, I’ve seen you here before, right?” kind of smile.
And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized her hating me has all been a perception thing on my part.
Which got me thinking about all the many times I assign thoughts to others that they never actually think. I hold them accountable to harsh judgments they never make. And I own a rejection from them they never gave me.
Yes. This. Give me enough time and I can work up a whole sordid tale in my mind over one perceived snub from another person. And I’ve learned that my thinking, and especially feelings, don’t always line up with reality. So how can I avoid creating these false stories about what others think of me?
Submit my thoughts to God. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we’re told to “take every thought captive.” When I feel hurt by another person, I should begin by inviting Christ to rein in my thoughts instead of letting my own insecurities and past wounds establish the narrative. At times when I have allowed God’s truth about me or the situation to inform my thoughts, I have come to realize that another person’s rejection has no basis. I don’t need to stew over the person at the grocery store who rudely cut in front of me in line because it doesn’t really matter.
Choose to assume the best. Proverbs 19:11 says it’s to a man’s glory to overlook an offense. My 3-year-old is great at this. If she gives a friendly “hi” to someone and they don’t respond, she’ll shrug her shoulders and say, “I guess they didn’t hear me.”
I don’t know the whole story when someone treats me badly. Maybe the person was distracted by troubles at work or home. Maybe she had suffered a loss — or maybe she just had a headache. Perhaps I am simply off the person’s radar, and he has no idea that his actions could be perceived as hurtful.
Give it some time. As this author’s story reveals, it’s possible to draw a conclusion (“She hates me”) with too few facts. While some rejections are valid, one incident may not be enough to see the situation clearly. If you perceive someone is treating you in an insulting way, wait to see if more experiences confirm this conclusion. I remember thinking a woman at my singles group disliked me because she seemed aloof. Later we became close friends and discovered we’d been mutually intimidated by one another.
The problem with fabricating these stories about others mistreating us is it indulges a self-centered attitude and cripples our ability to love freely. By pressing pause on negative thoughts and inviting God to help us understand the whole picture, we can live centered in His full acceptance of us and pass that on to others.