Why do we spend so much time worried about what others think of us? My poor 9-year-old struggles with this – he has since he was little. He doesn’t want to disappoint anyone, he wants to follow the rules, yet he wants to do what his friends do. It can be a real struggle, and he is only in 3rd grade! The kid has no clue what is store the next 10 years…
This week’s drama is some 4th graders teasing him in the bathroom when he brushes his teeth after lunch. (The orthodontist says to brush his teeth after every meal. He follows the rules.) We’ve had good discussions – what is bullying, when is the right time to ask a teacher for help, what to say or when to ignore mean words from other kids.
But the biggest message – one we share over and over again – is to be confident in who he is, to remember he has a family who loves him, and to cling to his status of “beloved child of God” no matter what mean things other kids might say. I get it – easier said than done. Even now, as a confident, intelligent, successful adult, I still care far too much about how my actions are perceived by the world.
A dear friend of mine sent me this list years ago… These are the things she had identified as her core values:
Integrity: The quality of being honest and have strong moral principles.
Faith: Complete trust or confidence in something; belief in God through things unseen.
Kindness: Treating people with respect, affection; valuing another’s human worth.
Loving: A strong affection for another; unselfish, loyal, concern for the good of another, devotion.
Strength: The power to resist force; capacity for endurance!
Aren’t these beautiful? (The words are her’s, the definitions I added.) She’s probably annoyed by this – I bring her core values up all the time! But they really are perfect for her character, they resonate deeply with my own journey, and I think they are helpful for my son! We have this similar need to please people, meet everyone’s expectations, calm the waters.
However… if you want to remain true to these core values, sometimes you need to rock the boat! Stand up for what you believe, speak out of turn, change course!
The world is noisy – and painful. There will be people who will put us down, say mean things, disrespect us. This is hard – impossible? – on our own. So we pray – we talk to God and identify values (like those above) which are important to us. These values can shape who we are and how we live. We then let these values set the foundation for all relationships we experience, and we keep people in close confidence that will understand, support and encourage these values. These are the people who know and love the real us, who see our value no matter the circumstance.
My son has those drama-filled middle school and high school years ahead of him. I am fearful that his feelings will be hurt; that he’ll let the means words of another kid change his self-perception. If that happens, I pray I’ll be there, that his family will be there, that he will have true friends around him, and that he’ll hear our words. We are called to remind each other over and over again that we are beloved. With focus on our values and a support system in place, the mean words of another will carry no weight.