More and more in life, I’m starting to realize that people try to define who we are for us.
And more and more in life, I’m trying to remind others just how not OK that is.
I was at the grocery store one day last week, and there was a man in front of me who was very loud. That’s not necessarily always a bad thing—it was simply drawing attention to him, though. So, naturally, I started listening to what he was saying.
He was telling the cashier (don’t get me started on this store not having self-checkout) how he is filled with joy. I thought that was good to hear, but then my positive attitude toward this man was quickly diminished.
He went on to say that he’s not from around here (join the club, bro) and that everyone in this area is “so nasty.” (Umm, excuse me?) He said that, at his church back home, everyone is filled with joy, and you’ll never see someone not praising Jesus for life. Then he kept going on about how he carries joy with him everywhere, but the “people around here don’t know what joy is—they’re nasty.”
Sir, I think you need to get to know people before deciding you know them.
I was about to say something when he turned to me and said, “See, she doesn’t have joy. Nasty!”
Mr. Joy, you don’t know my heart.
He turned and bolted out the door before I could even say a thing to him. It’s probably for the best—I’m not sure I had a ton of nice things to say in that moment.
I wasn’t upset about the fact that the man called me nasty—he can think whatever he wants about me—but I didn’t like that he was going around calling an entire county nasty simply because not everyone here lives their lives the exact same way he does. I don’t want to judge him for his words or actions, but I do pray that he realizes how powerful love is and how people need love more than they need to be called nasty. There are some tremendous people with beautiful hearts here and everywhere throughout the entire world, and there are also people who might be a little more rough around the edges. Let’s not judge them; let’s love them, instead.
The next day at work, some of my coworkers were having a conversation and joking around, and one of the guys said that it’s pretty bad if you’re older than 30 and still not married, “especially if you’re a woman.”
I was not able to remain silent in this moment, so I invited myself into their convo. He didn’t realize that I was listening (or that I was older than 30), so then he started trying to backtrack and win me over by saying that I look younger than 30.
First of all, thank you for saying that. Second, let’s talk about what you just said.
Mr. Chatty Coworker, you don’t know my heart.
It’s challenging enough sometimes knowing myself that I’m in my 30s and haven’t been in an actual relationship, so I don’t really need people reminding me and claiming that it’s basically pathetic to be my age and still this single. I go through seasons of being OK with it and seasons of feeling lonely. I feel like I just transitioned out of that lonely one into one that’s more comfortable, so maybe the enemy was trying to make me feel discontent again—who knows?
Regardless, I can’t let people’s words and opinions of me change what I think or say about myself. And I hope that you won’t let other people’s words and opinions of you change what you think or say about yourself. They cannot define who you are—unless you let them.
We don’t know what everyone else is struggling with or what storms they might be facing in their lives. Instead of judging others or assuming you know them, perhaps give them a little grace, or even take the time to get to know them. You might find that your attitude toward a person can change when you actually take time to learn more about him or her with a heart perspective.
We’re not all going to live our lives the same way, and that’s a good thing. People don’t have to express joy the same way you do. People don’t have to have the same relationship timelines that you do. People don’t have to spend the same amount of time at their jobs or in their hobbies as you do. People don’t have to like all of the same movies or foods or pastimes or whatever as you.
And you don’t have to be like everyone else, either. It’s important to be genuine, to be real. People can’t know the real you and your heart if you aren’t being who you actually are. If they judge you for being you, then so be it. Your identity shouldn’t be the result of what someone else thinks it should be. That goes for all types of relationships—with strangers who know nothing about you, with family members who know everything about you, with your friends who are your ride-or-die lifers, with acquaintances, with people you might look at as enemies, and with the person whom you love or are dating.
Be authentically you—it’s harder for people to know your heart if you don’t truly know it yourself.