it’s 5th grade. you’re on the playground. you see billy mcgee—the class bully—coming your direction. billy doesn’t beat people up with his fists. but billy knows how to beat people up with his words. you know it’s coming.
“hey you. yeah, you. your mom’s so dumb she brought a spoon to the super bowl.”
his entourage—little eddie hankins and robby smits—laughs devilishly. “this kid’s good,” you think, trying to avoid eye contact.
“your mom’s so fat that when she wears a malcolm x t-shirt, a helicopter lands on her.”
you’ve gotta do something as the laughter mounts. think fast.
“yeah? well…i’m rubber, you’re glue. whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”
like kryptonite to superman, big bad billy mcgee and his weasely entourage shrinks away, knowing that he’s lost this battle of pre-teen wits.
ah yes, back in 5th grade, the “rubber/glue”—much like “sticks & stones…”—held great power and were deep words of wisdom.
but alas, life complicates itself. the youthful exuberance of a schoolyard exchange of clichés turns into a web of layered emotions, wrought with self-doubt, fear, discouragement and everything in between.
words hurt. they expose the fragile and vulnerable places within us that seem to be tucked somewhere deep beyond what’s visible to most others, even ourselves. over the course of the journey of starting a church, i’ve found that words do, in fact, hurt. they discourage and create, at times, intense self doubt.
i blogged about his several months ago during a time when i was struggling greatly with this problem. it was a vulnerable post to write, but i ended up getting some great feedback from friends and other leaders who expressed that they regularly have the same struggles and have very few outlets to express them. in the post, i wrote:
much to my surprise, over the last half a year, i’ve fought a very tough battle with intense self doubt and bad case of trampled ego. i’ve always been the type to disallow the actions or words or critiques of others to shape my inner self, but taking the lead in a church planting project has revealed a new layer of emotions and personal battles. what you were certain of a day ago is now fodder for intense personal scrutiny and doubt.
don’t get me wrong: it’s not as if i walk around in some kind of cloud of despair. 🙂 95% of the time, i feel a deep sense that i’m doing the right things, making the right decisions and following the call inside me. but certainly, those 5% of the times can become very clouded and darkly introspective. fortunately, those 5% times are few and far between, but certainly very palpable when presented.
since that time, quite frankly, the struggle has continued with relative regularity. it’s taken me to some dark places where i was ready to wave the white flag and walk away from the calling i love and have sacrificed greatly for.
and then i remembered billy mcgee.
i remembered that his words were hurtful and mean and discouraging and just not right.
and then i remembered the great words of power and wisdom.
i’m rubber, you’re glue…
yeah, i know, it’s cheesy. it’s goofy. it’s definitely 5th-grade. but the words are true. i’ve simply made a decision to take the would-be discouraging feedback that offers nothing constructive or helpful and let it bounce off me. it does nothing but put of fog of discouragement and self doubt around me that impedes growth or insights or joy or the ability to live out my calling.
and then, of course, there must be the glue. i’ve found that the people who offer criticism (the negative kind, as opposed to those who offer helpful and welcome constructive criticism) are generally the ones who carry the weight of constant negativity and the burden of endless disappointment. simply put: some people will never be happy and can only pass their discontent onto others. misery, of course, loves company.
so, i’ve given it up. i’m no longer living under the cloud of discouragement. there’s too much positivity occurring to be weighed down by the negative.
sure, i’ll have moments of discouragement and doubt. i’ll have times of personal scrutiny and i’ll likely have times where i bring into question many of the decisions i’ve made. and those times will be normal and healthy. those times won’t be seasons, but moments.
i’m rubber and there are plenty of people who deal in negativity that will gladly be the glue. i’ve chosen to let go of the deceptive lure of discouragement. just like that day in 5th grade when i boldly defeated the harsh words of billy mcgee, i’m making the decision again to let hurtful words bounce off me and stick to someone else.