No one likes to be told that, do they? “This is none of your business.” I don’t. Sometimes I think I believe that everything is my business, simply because I believe my opinion has value to anyone and everyone. Well, it’s not, and it doesn’t. That’s a good thing, by the way. When we finally learn the lesson about circles of influence and the things that really should matter to us, life is oh-so-much simpler.
When I was younger, I wore my heart on my sleeve. I wore it on a locket around my neck. I wore it on top of my head. In other words, I’d get my feelings hurt so often that it really had begun to affect my happiness. When someone said something hurtful or downright nasty to or about me, I just felt crushed. Those negative feelings tempered my daily life. They worried me, even keeping me up at night. I thought I was a nice person, maybe even a little timid and mousy. So how on earth could someone be vicious toward me, or say awful things about me?
Many years ago, just after I graduated from college, I taught kindergarten in a school down in Griffin, Georgia. I loved my kids. I took great pains to make my classroom a happy place for them to come every day. I volunteered my time for extracurricular activities for the children. I did my job, and well. Then one day, as I was walking to my classroom, another teacher called me aside and said she had something to tell me, because she thought that I should know. To make a long story short, another teacher was telling still more teachers that I was, shall we say, in an inappropriate relationship with the school principal.
What? In my entire young life (I was probably 22 or 23 at the time), I had such limited experience with the opposite sex that it might be considered bizarre today. Heck, I played with Barbies practically until the day I left for college. I was devastated. Embarrassed. Humiliated. But above all else, my feelings were so deeply hurt that I could barely get through the day. I worried myself sick about the rumor that night but more importantly, I could barely function because I was so deeply hurt by someone else’s words and actions. I’ll never forget that experience, ever.
The woman who started the rumor and kept it going for weeks was a woman that I barely knew. She and I did not teach the same grade level. We never interacted socially. In other words, she didn’t know the first thing about me. Yet for her own reasons, she felt the need to circulate a rumor about me that could have cost me my job and may have even cost me a few acquaintances (not friends, mind you). My friends knew me better than to believe such a hurtful claim.
For me, the experience was just awful. She, on the other hand, was having the time of her life with it. Why? I never knew the answer to that, but I understand now that knowing the “why” wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
Fast forward about 30 years, and I’ll tell you what I believe about what others have to say about you. It’s absolutely none of your business. A man of faith taught me a few years ago that everyone should have a close inner circle, populated with people whom she allows to influence and to counsel her. Outside that small inner circle is a bigger circle, and in it are people who allow you to influence them. Outside that second circle is the rest of the world. You see, we cannot control what other people say or think, or why they say or think what they do. We can only control what we say and think; we control our choices and decisions. We can control who we let in, who we let come close enough to influence us in any way. Simple as that.
When you look at things that way, it makes life a whole lot simpler, doesn’t it? I have no idea why that woman decided so many years ago to attack my reputation in such a manner, but I do know this. Her choice to do that had nothing at all to do with me, and it had everything to do with her. Oh, how I wish I had understood that when I was a young, green, naïve 20-something. My heart really was so innocent back then, but it grew up and wised up over the years, and that single experience was the cataylst.
Every one of us, at one time or another in this life, will face a similar situation. It’s just a fact that we humans can be mean-spirited bullies for a variety of reasons. The motives can be jealousy, misplaced anger, or the Queen Mother of all human shortcomings: the love of gossip. The point is that those things are the other person’s issues, not yours. Their problems, not yours. They see and treat others through their lens, not through yours.
For those reasons, what others think and say about you – unless they a member of your closest inner circle - is absolutely none of your business. Just think of all the time, all the thought life, that single, simple concept frees up. In turn, your head and your heart, are freed up.
I like life better when it looks like that.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was published April 2016. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her other three books are written with Southern humor. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national true crime radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family and living in her beloved South. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.