“A Hard Look at Myself,” Ensign, Feb. 1990, 64
I have learned a difficult lesson—not everyone likes me!
It sounds strange to put it on paper. Of course, everyone couldn’t possibly like me. But I had never realized or thought about it before. And at thirty-five years old, it’s a hard pill to swallow.
My lesson came the day I overheard two women discussing a certain person. They were anything but kind. A sick feeling crept into my stomach when I realized that I was the person they were discussing. I walked away with a sadness I cannot describe.
I went to a close friend with my discovery—only to have it confirmed. It was true. At some time through the years, I had made these women dislike me. What had I done?
I searched my soul for days, thinking back to times I had been with those women, working side-by-side in some civic or church calling. I was sure that my mouth had worked overtime on many occasions, but I could not remember specific incidents. (I guess it’s always easier to remember wrongs done to us.)
I decided to take the direct approach. After humble prayer, I went straight to the source. I asked one of the women what I had done. She denied that she had ever said anything against me. I decided to let it drop. But a few weeks later, rumors about me surfaced again. I again prayed and felt the need to go to the other woman. Again there was total denial.
How could I correct the problem if I didn’t know what the problem was? Could I make these women change their minds? I was plagued with constant thoughts of how many more minds they were poisoning against me.
I began to watch everyone’s reaction to me. If they didn’t speak to me or snubbed me, I felt the stinging pain again. It was destroying my self-image. These were people I had to go to church with. These were the people who were teaching my children about love and sisterhood. How could I listen to them give lessons on becoming more Christlike?
It began to affect my attitude toward my family. I was becoming a depressed wife and a short-tempered mother. One day as I was driving home from work, I prayed for help and guidance. “Heavenly Father,” I spoke softly as I drove, “I don’t want to become a bitter woman. Please tell me what to do.”
I pulled into my driveway just as a member of the stake presidency passed by. For some reason he stopped and asked about me. I gave the usual, expected answer: “I’m just fine.” We talked for a few seconds about everyday things, and then I found myself pouring out my heart, standing there in my driveway. His counsel was deep and sincere, and I knew the things he said were true. The depression began to lift slightly. I went to bed very early and slept soundly for the first time in several days.
The next morning I began to see things differently. Instead of dwelling on the negative, I began to look for the positive. A friend called to see how I was feeling about a rejection I had received on a book manuscript. Another dear friend called to tell me that if it helped, she knew people who didn’t like her either—and could she borrow some cheese? Just knowing that she felt comfortable enough with me to borrow something made me feel great.
A knock at the door brought the welcome hustle-bustle voice of another friend bringing two freshly baked lemon croissants. We ate and talked about other things as the tension eased. An hour later, still another friend brought me flower starts to plant. My husband, who had been my mentor through all of this, called from work to ask gently if things were any better today.
Suddenly the warm hug of my small daughter meant everything to me. A wink from my twelve-year-old son made me glow. I even felt wonderful when an acquaintance waved while passing me on the street. Every time a child spoke to me, I smiled. I had quit taking my friends and family for granted. I almost wanted to thank those women who disliked me.
The experience has changed my outlook. My friends have never been so dear to me. I found myself wanting to be a better friend. To have a friend, you have to be a friend. I came to the realization that everyone’s personalities do not always work well together. And that’s okay. I’m me. And my main concern is to be the best I can be and to change where I need to.
I have a sign sitting on my desk that I’m trying very hard to put into practice. It reads: “Put Brain in Gear Before Opening Mouth.”*
Slowing down and taking a minute to think before saying something can prevent misunderstandings, problems, and untold stress. Following are a few “put-brain-in-gear” basics:
Before saying anything to anyone, ask yourself three things: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If it doesn’t meet all three requirements, don’t say it.
Be kind to unkind people. They probably need it the most.
Make promises carefully and keep them faithfully.
When you talk about someone in his or her absence, don’t say anything you would not be willing to say in his or her presence.
Have a forgiving view of people and their behavior. Most people are doing the best they can.
Never miss the opportunity to compliment or to say something encouraging to or about someone.
If someone criticizes you, consider whether there is any truth to what is said. If so, make changes. If there is no truth to the criticism, ignore it and live so that no one will believe the negative remarks.
Cultivate your sense of humor. “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”