How do you get people to change their opinion of you if you have a history of not making wise choices, and you have changed, but people refuse to forget about it and constantly bring up your past?
Lauren Roth's Answer
This Shabbos, we had a celebrity in our home.
A very famous rabbi came to us for Shabbos lunch, and half our neighborhood joined us for dessert afterwards. Now, I know you guys aren’t housewives yet, BUT I’m sure you can imagine that this fete was quite a lot of work for me, to say the least!
But I had it “all under control”…my older sons and daughters watched my younger sons and daughters and kept them happy, fed, and gainfully occupied, starting on Thursday. Nobody played on the main floor starting on Thursday (!!), we ate dinner off paper plates with disposable cutlery starting Wednesday to help keep everything spic and span… I had it “all under control.” Until.
Thursday, as I was running from store to store gathering all the items I would need for the festivities, I kept calling my husband and venting to him about how overwhelmed I was, how nervous I was, how much there was to do…and would it all get done in time??!
He was great. He was supportive. He understood.
Then, you won’t believe what happened.
Thursday at 4:00, he texted me: “I think I need you to pick me up from the hospital after work today.” (He’s a doctor.) I thought maybe he was getting something done to his car and needed a ride home. So I texted back, “Sounds like fun! The kids and I will come and get you.”
At 6:30, I had cleared away the (disposable) dinner plates and utensils, left a little food out for him, and I and the older kids were ready to put the younger kids to bed so I could call neighbors to remind them about the event in our home on Shabbos. My husband called: “I’m ready for you to pick me up.”
“Great!” I said. “Where should I go?”
He replied: “Go to the ambulatory care entrance, come inside, go down the hall, make a right, then your first left – ”
“One second!” I interrupted him. “You’re not going to just come out?”
“I didn’t want to bother you,” he replied, “but today was the only day when I could have that procedure on my foot!”
AAAARRRGGGGHH! I had it “all under control” – until I didn’t anymore. Who, pray tell, was going to set up the many tables, move the many chairs, move the boxes, clean up the outside, help bring in the boxes of groceries…not my husband with his surgically incised foot!
I’m happy to report that I was a good wife. My response was: “Hello?! Why didn’t you tell me?? Didn’t you want me to hold your hand and be here for you?!” My gallant husband replied: “You had enough on your plate – and I could handle this myself. By the way, I’m really sorry about not being able to help you now that I’m pretty much incapacitated.”
What is my point? We can do everything right. We can have our lives totally under control. But God will throw us curveballs. He will give us tests and challenges. As my father says, “If God had wanted us all to sit around all day just playing baseball, he would have created the world differently than it is.” God gives us challenges to help us grow.
I totally had everything under control. I was doing everything right. And God gave me a curveball. Because that is why we’re here: to decide how we’re going to respond to curveballs.
You, my dear, are doing right. You have changed your ways for the better. That’s wonderful. This curveball of people bringing up your past is your obstacle, put there by a loving God to help you grow. Maybe it’s to remind you of how far you’ve come. Maybe it’s to remind you how not to be – reminding other people of their past misdeeds. Maybe it’s to help you become even better in response to the “haters.” Whatever the reason, it’s your custom-designed curveball to enhance your journey of self-perfection.
Your job is to be good, and that’s about it. You can try to change the haters’ minds, but it probably won’t work. People believe whatever they want to believe. It’s definitely worth it to tell them, “Actually, I’ve changed. I worked really hard and I’ve become a different person than I used to be. It would be nice if you could see that, but if you can’t, that’s okay, because I’m just happy to be where I am now, no matter what you say. Of course, it does hurt my feelings when you remind me of how I used to be, and I would prefer if you would not taunt me about it.”
It’s amazing what you can accomplish by calmly explaining to people the effects of their actions on you and on your feelings. You very likely will not and cannot change their behavior, but helping them to be aware of the effect of their actions and words on you might make them think twice before they diss you again.
Maybe, just maybe, God is sending you these antagonizers to help you build your own self-confidence and your own self-respect. Because if they keep bringing up your past and dragging you through the mud, it will force you to man up and become even stronger. Every time they put you down, remind yourself, “I worked hard, and I accomplished. Now I’m standing on top of the mountain, and no one can bring me down.” (Cue “Defying Gravity”!)
You just do the right thing, and don’t worry about the haters. Haters will always be haters, but you, who have climbed the mountain, are free to breathe the fresh air of victory. Inhale it deeply: you’ve earned it.