Nicole Unice is the author of She's Got Issues, and blogs at www.nicoleunice.com. Part Bible teacher, part community organizer, part busy mom, Nicole has the uncanny ability to relate to people in all ages and stages of life with her “keeping it real” approach to ordering a life around God’s word. Nicole received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the College of William and Mary and her masters in Christian Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. You can follow Nicole on Twitter (@nicoleunice) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nicole.unice).
also known as:
how not to act like a little dog on a leash.
So this funny thing happens when you decide to really be you. Sometimes people don’t like it.
I know this, because I’ve spent an enormous amount of energy over the course of my life trying to get people to like me. Have you ever watched a dog competition? Living your life trying to get everyone to like you is a little like being a dog in a dog show. It’s like handing a leash to another person and then committing to do a bunch of tricks and turns in response to their moves. It’s acting and reacting in response to your owner, which is an interesting word to use when you think about it. If you are prone to use approval from others as your way of shaping your identity, “owner” might be just the right word.
Allowing our own identity to be “owned” by another’s approval might be one of the great reasons why it’s worth fighting against. I’ve learned the hard way that people’s approval cannot be the way I make decisions. First–because it’s exhausting to be a trained dog. Second–it never works. It has a 100% failure rate because no matter how hard I try, I cannot actually get everyone to like me.
Go ahead, say it out loud: “Self: Not everyone is going to like me.”
Whew, you did it. See? You didn’t spontaneously combust. You are still you, even if someone doesn’t like it. Baby steps.
Here’s three other ways to keep loving people even when they don’t like you:
#1: Treat them like a person
It’s easy to turn fast on that person that you wish would like you. It’s easy to all of a sudden start talking about all the identity issues, character issues, life issues and general ugliness of the other person because they don’t like you. This is not pretty, people. Don’t forget that the person who doesn’t like you, no matter how ugly they are being, is a person with real feelings and hurts and reasons why they act the way that they do. Don’t turn on them. Don’t answer crazy with crazy, as tempting as it might be. This means don’t call them out on Facebook, don’t insult them back (in your heart or out loud) don’t talk about their problems in a way that sounds like you actually care for them when in reality you are just really mad. That’s how we answer crazy with crazy and friend, it really doesn’t suit you. So look for the best in them and pray (ALOT) for God to give you enough love to override your hurt.
#2: Remember your why
When someone criticizes your work or attacks your character, remember why you do what you do. What was your motive for your actions or work? Is it good? Is it motivated by love? Is it worth doing? Sometimes a little criticism can help us know what we actually care about (and what we don’t). For instance, I once wrote a post about Beyonce. (If you want to get some criticism, criticize Beyonce) In the midst of combing through a bunch of comments about that article, I found myself thinking about why I wrote what I wrote, and if I would do it again. (I would). It’s easy to deceive ourselves about the why if we don’t examine our motives with rigorous honesty. I could have written about Beyonce as a quick way to get blog traffic (if you want blog traffic, also write about Beyonce). But the criticism helped me stop and make sure I was writing for good reasons. So use that criticism as a self-examination, and let it work for good!
#3: Walk On
One of the worst energy-sucking experiences in life is ruminating on negativity. It’s easy to get stuck on #2, remembering our why over and over and over, analyzing our words or actions over and over and over. That’s why I love this passage in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me…” Step #2 was about clearing our conscience, Step #3 is about leaving it there. One of the greatest tests of character is the ability to love someone even when they criticize or insult you. Don’t give them the leash and put them in charge of your attitude or your reaction.
I have to quote Marianne Williamson here because this is worth reading every single day:
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us…
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So shine on, friends. Let the criticism purify your calling. Let the resistance you feel, within you or outside of you, be a reminder that at the end of the our lives, we will all be called to account for our own actions. Don’t play small today. Don’t be a dog on a leash. Be you, all of you, unleashed and stretching into all God’s made you to be.
Tonight in the bathtub my son wanted to practice holding his breath. The first time he got 24 seconds. Then I told him about the man who can hold his breath for 22 minutes. So then he tried, and tried, and tried, and a dozen times later he broke 30 seconds. When he came up sputtering from his long submersion, he grinned up at me with his two grown-up teeth and exclaimed, “I’m almost to the world record!” Before he dove back under again, he promised: “next time I’ll get a minute.”
At seven years old, my boy gleams with hope: hope of a world record or even a few seconds longer underwater. This hope flames bright in the young ones. Perhaps our capacity for wonder is best stoked by little goals and great imaginations; by knowing less and dreaming more.
But maybe this year you’ve forgotten what it feels like to hope for something more, different, altogether new for your future.
Maybe the obligations and disappointments of life have worn on you like fine sandpaper, constantly rubbing away, leaving you feeling more exposed, less hopeful; more like rotting rubber, less like a strong sapling.
But what my son has in him is not unique to him, or to little boys, or to children at all. What he has is what we all have, what you have. This is the most encouraging news of your life and a truth to hang your new year on:
We’ve all been given the extraordinary capacity to grow.
Growth is about not having it all figured out.
Growth is about not being a grown-up, but being a growing-up.
Growth is about knowing you can still be wrong, that you can still be learning, that you can still be refined.
Growth is about knowing there is wonder left for your soul, there is hope left for your life, there is something new that God has waiting for you in 2015.
The promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can be made new. The life of Jesus is not a transactional agreement with a distant God to give us a get-out-of-hell free card. Jesus didn’t come to just offer us a new way of dying. He offers you a relationship where he brings you along on a new way of living.
Living in Jesus is the hope of a soul that can be made new. The Bible promises that outwardly we are wasting away, which means that things are changing and no amount of working out, health shakes, vitamins, essential oils, amino acids, Botox or purified water is going to change that. But the Bible also promises that inwardly we are being renewed day by day. In the most important matters of who you really are, Jesus promises you can grow.
2015 can be your year, not because you grit your whitened teeth or flex your worked-out muscles to make it happen, but because you partner with God to grow. This can be your year to recapture wonder, to embrace joy. This can be your year to become more peaceful, to forgive, to love. This can be your year to notice people who go unnoticed, to cultivate compassion, to develop eyes for beauty, to grow gratitude, to finally give up that habit that’s weighing you down.
This can be your year to grow, because the most encouraging news of our entire lives is that we always, always have the opportunity to change. What an incredibly hopeful gift.
Happy New Year, my friends.
Very rarely do I wake up in the middle of the night–but tonight was one of those nights. I tried to go back to sleep and that didn’t work so I came downstairs to read my Bible. As I sit in the quiet of my comfortable home: warm and safe, with my children sleeping in their own beds, dreaming innocent dreams, with a bright hope for the future, I need to tell you something.
It is not like this for so many in the world.
yes, you may think, i know. But before you stop reading, I want you to take that in. There are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters all around us who cannot be safe. There are toddlers and kids and teenagers who don’t know what hope looks like.
yes, you may think, it’s terrible. But let me tell you one more thing. There is also evil. There are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who treat others with a deep, dark contempt. There are those who have given themselves over to a violent, brutal side in their hearts. There are those who use other people for their own pleasures and their own greed in ways that are violently opposed to God’s plans for people. There are those who are so caught up in this darkness, so deceived, that they use people as if they are not human. As if they are not their father and mother and brother and sister. They use them in such vile and shocking ways that most of us just want to turn away quickly and pretend like it doesn’t exist.
But friends, people are using people. All over the world. Look at this testimony from a US State Department report of trafficking in persons:
“Mary, a 16-year-old demobilized child soldier forced to join an armed rebel group in central Africa, remembers: “I feel so bad about the things that I did…. I still dream about the boy from my village whom I killed. I see him in my dreams, and he is talking to me, saying I killed him for nothing, and I am crying.”
I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but if not, just read this:
Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders annually, 80 percent of victims are female, and up to 50 percent are children. Hundreds of thousands of these women and children are used in prostitution each year.
yes, you might say, it is evil. And you may be getting ready for church or school right now, trying to hustle your own kids out of your safe and comfortable house. Maybe you are 24 right now and barely scraping by, wishing and hoping for a future, barely enough time to figure your own life out, less time to engage in worldwide problems that seem unsurmountable. Maybe none of us want to believe this is true–because no one wants this. No one wants to believe that life is like this, full of darkness and evil and deception.
yes. you say.
And this is what I would say: I feel powerless too. I feel like I’m not doing enough too. I feel a tidal wave of despair come over me too. But those feelings won’t change the world.
I opened to Jeremiah tonight and came to these words:
“If you speak good words rather than useless ones, you will be my spokesman.
You must influence them; do not let them influence you.” Jeremiah 15:19
So I must influence you, because God has given me a platform to do so. There are many voices in our heads that say we are too small and too unimportant to get involved. These are lies, lies that help keep you distracted with your own life and ignorant of evil. But the truth: yes, it is terrible. yes, it is overwhelming. yes, it is dark and evil.
And yes, we can do something about it.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now:
1. Get informed and talk about it.
2. Pray for rescue.
3. Support an organization.
Here’s some places for you to start. Do something, because doing anything is better than nothing. Always.
Organizations we support financially:
International Justice Mission: read about problems and solutions
Hope for Justice: read more about restoration
Richmond Justice Initiative (local): read about domestic trafficking and what you can do about it in your own town.
Remember, there is never “too small” a use of influence. The only thing too small is nothing. We can do this–we can do something.