It took me years to learn that I was in control of my feelings and that no one could make me feel badly about myself without my permission. It took me even longer to master. I still slip up from time to time, but for the most part, I've conquered it.
In a few particularly toxic relationships, I allowed others to control how I felt and how I felt about myself. I walked around playing the victim with my tail tucked between my legs like a hurt puppy. I cried. I got angry. I sometimes felt vengeful. The silly and unwarranted words they spoke manipulated me and I was the one who allowed it.
Now here's the thing that took the longest to figure out, but it is the very thing that liberated me. I was at fault and I had to repent. I had to learn to love those that tried to hurt me. Here's why:
Taking to heart what others say only fuels them
Escalating someone's words or actions by either believing them and becoming victims or giving it right back to them is wrong. Even more wrong than what they dish out because I know better.
It is not enough to not allow the meanness of others to get us down. We have to love them and pray for them as well. If I take it to heart, I am allowing them control and my heart won't be open to loving them. Instead, I need to be kind and ask God to soften their hearts and heal them of whatever pain is driving their behavior.
I cannot self-deprecate what God has made
If I take to heart the awfulness and allow it to hurt me or turn me into one of them, I am discrediting God for my own creation. I am made in his image. I am his child. How would I feel if my children believed terrible things that were spoken about them? He made me beautiful, strong, talented and loving and if I don't embrace that, I am not living up to his bounteous gifts.
It is just plain counterproductive
Self-doubt, anger, jealousy, envy or hatred takes me away from my mission. God put me here to spread joy, share the talents he gave me and to be the very best me I can be. I will have to account for my time and talents when I return to him. Do I really want to disclose that I wasted a lot of time wallowing in self-pity or doubt? Not me, by golly. I want to be able to account for a lot of good deeds that cannot be performed by a loser or victim.
All of the junk that we dish out and receive will be sorted out by God. He is listening. He is accounting. He loves the haters and wants to see them healed. They are his children also. As his servants, we need to do all we can to help and not to hinder. He will sort it out with our help. How good would it feel to report to him that I have helped to turn the heart of someone so consumed with their own doubts that they have to lash out at others?
So that's my plan now. I realized that no one can take away from me what I don't let them and that I'm the only one with control over how I feel and perceive myself. I have even managed to forgive them, which on a few occasions, has actually softened them toward me. My sincere prayers will continue. The rest is up to them and God.