The best, and strangest piece of professional advice I have ever received was this: Stand in front of the mirror and cuss yourself out. Every adjective that goes with the word bitch, fat, skinny, f-ing, stupid, loud, whatever race you may be, go ahead and put them in front of that nasty word that people call women and wield them at yourself.
Since most of you have never done this, let me explain to you what happens. It feels strange at first, but then you get into a groove. Your face turns red, your heart beats fast, it stings. You stutter; your palms sweat. But then, and this is the point of the exercise, repeated enough the insults becomes ridiculous and they don’t matter to you anymore. You have been called that nasty word enough times, by yourself, that you are able to shrug it off. Congratulations, you are now sure this is not true.
What the college professor who assigned that exercise knew, that I did not, was that if I taught high school for any length of time, one of the kids would call me a nasty name… to my face… in front of the rest of the class. He wanted me to be prepared for that moment so that I would not give the name-caller any power in my reaction. He wanted me to be able to ignore it, and I am grateful to him.
I have taught High school now for 6 years, and been called that to my face at least 12 times. I am sure, behind my back, the tally is much, much higher. I say to my students, and truly believe, that if I please all of my students all of the time I am not doing my job. I am likely hurting my students by not holding them to a higher standard, I am selling them short. So, when someone calls me that nasty name, I assess if I have been fair to that student, if I have been kind, if I have spoken truth in grace, and if I have, I shrug it off and go about my day.
There was a freedom that came the day that I faced myself in a mirror and used those names against myself. I was free from them, because when I heard them out loud they wrung of lies. I knew they were not true.
On Tuesday, I had a guest post that got a lot of attention (at least in comparison to what I usually write.) It is so easy for me to clutch the stats like an Oscar and exclaim through joyous tears, “You like me! You really like me!” But, this is not always going to be the case.
People aren’t always going to like what I do or say. It is only a matter of time before someone says something nasty about me, about what I do and who I am in Christ. In a world with Facebook and Twitter and me with a personal blog that I am hoping grows, it is only a matter of time before someone says it publicly. I have spent far too long not saying what God has given me to say, not doing what He is asking me to do, because I know that someone will have something negative to say about it.
The truth is, they will. Someone will have something negative, even nasty to say about the dreams the Lord has given me. They may even drop their jaw and assert me unprepared, unqualified, maybe even that I am an hypocritical bitch just pretending to love the Lord.
This year, with the word unashamed governing these 365 days, I said them to myself. Your writing does not matter, there is someone more qualified, that is ridiculous Abby, you did NOT hear God speak those words to you. The first time around they stung a little, but the second time around they revealed themselves as lies. And now they are lies I am free from. I am free to ignore them, shrug them off and go on about the work the Lord has given to me.
So let me pass on the best piece of professional advice that anyone has ever given me. Stand in front of a mirror and tell yourself everything you are afraid people are going to say about you. Do it today. Do it out loud. I promise those words will sound far smaller when they are out of your head. They will reveal themselves as lies. Then turn from your mirror and go about your life, free to do what the Lord has for you.