I stared at my computer in disbelief. Really? I never said that. Why would Sally* say I had? The words rankled somewhere deep inside. Those untruths, spun in an appealing way. Sent in e-mail form to dozens on my e-mail list. How do I fix this, God? How do I explain what really happened?
Snatching my coat, I stepped outside into the bitter cold. The sun did nothing to warm the earth. God, it’s me again. Do you care that people are lying about me? The bigger truth lay deep in my heart, but I refused to allow that thought access to my mind. Still, it pressed unbidden to the surface: Why does it matter what others think of you? God can be maddening sometimes. Especially when He’s right. Sometimes I just want to nurse my feelings of being wronged.
Months slipped by. I don’t think I resolved Sally’s words; instead, I just ignored them. It’s often easier not to think of something than to replay those words in my mind. It’s a coping mechanism, I guess, but not a very effective one.
The long-buried thought kept resurfacing. Why do you care what others think of you?
Later another e-mail came in that brought the whole situation to a head. It was from a woman I knew on a mere acquaintance level. My cell phone whistled, and I casually glanced down at the e-mail. The words should’ve been written in all caps and in red, for the effect they had. “Please do not reach out to me again, under any circumstance.” I caught my breath and read it again. I must have hurt her. Racking my brain, I could think of nothing. We rarely interacted, yet I had obviously overstepped. How do I apologize? How do I make this right when I’m not allowed to contact her again? How do I ask what’s bothering her and explain what really happened?
That night seemed like an eternity. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, tears spilling over my cheeks and onto my hair. Greg’s even breathing told me he was asleep. Grabbing my earphones, I pulled up Pandora and began to listen to worship music. How could I have hurt one of God’s daughters? How could I explain myself when I wasn’t allowed to? God, will You help me?
As the weeks passed, I found that the long-buried thought kept resurfacing. Why do you care what others think of you? Of course, it mattered if I had unintentionally hurt someone else, and that needed to be rectified. But why did I have this desire to be understood, to ensure that others saw my point of view, to explain myself or my actions?
The bottom line is that what other people think of us is none of our business. We don’t need to justify ourselves, explain ourselves, or even vindicate ourselves. All of that is pride.
My prayer this new year is simple: God, deliver me from myself and my need to be understood.
* A pseudonym.
Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.