Deb Sofield


You are NOT responsible for how people treat you

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You are not responsible for how people treat you, but you are responsible for how you treat others and yourself.

Recently I was watching a show about re-entry from death row prison to freedom. The man who was telling his story said that, through it all, his mother would tell him that no matter what happens in life or death, that he was not responsible for how people treated him, but he was responsible for how he treated others and himself.

A tear came to his eye when he recalled the words of the one woman who never stopped loving him, believing in him, trusting in his innocence and continually praying for his release.

Needless to say, I was also in tears to think about the 20-plus years he sat on death row knowing he was innocent (wrong place, wrong time, wrong friends) and then finally to be released when the evidence cleared him.

Talk about inner strength to set his feelings and emotions aside and walk tall and proud, unencumbered by his past, into the light of freedom to be at rest.

Responsibility–not a word many people like to hear these days because it requires work. It is so much easier to blame others instead of looking inward to see what is required of us to live up to our own personal standard of excellence.

We see it all around us nowadays online, on TV and talk radio, billboards and push cards, always casting aside one’s responsibility to blame someone else for the faults, issues, or problems that arise.

It is hard to set aside the emotions that bubble or flare or simmer under the surface when others treat us poorly–usually unjustly. And it stings when others discount our ability, question our ethics or put us purposefully in a bad light to make them look better. That one never made sense to me–a bad light makes everyone look bad–but I guess when they want to tear down others, they don’t care how they look…(just my musings).

Remember, you are not responsible for how people treat you, but you are responsible for how you treat others and yourself.

I know you’ve heard the phrase, How people treat you defines them; how you respond, defines you. It is a well-known phrase and similar for my theme for today, but the difference is subtle, and here is where I find it matters.

When all is said and done and the dust settles, you will come to realize that it is about you–completely about you–no more, no less. There will come a point in your life (or perhaps has already come) when everything that you are is standing on the line between respect and kindness and anger and revenge. The line is thin and a step either way will most likely have lifetime consequences.

You have to make the decision of how you will respond, and please know that this moment of decision is what very well might define you for life.

I am working on a new media class that I will be giving in a few weeks, and I have been researching social media’s technological makeover of modern elections. As a speech coach, I am fascinated with the dynamics of how politicians now communicate with voters. The research points out that this social media shift many times is seen as altering the tone and content of political speech, which, in turn, is affecting our conversation and affecting our lives.

Writer Joel Lee points out that, “Social media users – everyday people like you and me – have a tremendous amount of power today. And when that power is combined with the pervasive growth of outrage culture, social media becomes a destructive force that can ruin innocent lives.

One simple mistake is all it takes for your life to blow up. Death threats, bomb threats, racial tension – even in jest, these can be misconstrued to turn the entire world against you until the world’s sense of “justice” is satiated. Be careful out there, but more importantly; be compassionate to your fellow human beings. Online shaming is serious, and this culture of extreme Internet drama can’t be sustained for long before it all collapses to the detriment of everyone. People make mistakes.”

Which brings me full circle to this: You will have to make the decision of how you want to respond to the mistakes that others make towards you; your reaction at that moment of the decision may define you for life.

So I’m not sure how loudly I need to yell for you to step away from the fire of your reaction before you are burned. Remember, friend, you are not responsible for how people treat you, but you are responsible for how you treat others and yourself.

You know, we’ve all made mistakes we’re not proud of (and don’t like to talk about or admit). When I was younger, due to my haste and not thinking things through for the long term, I wasted time and money and paid the high price for those errors in judgment. Frankly, if I could go back and be mature in my thinking and actions, the outcomes would be vastly different. But, as they say, with age comes wisdom, and unfortunately, back then I wasn’t wise enough to weigh the outcome that short-term gain may result in long-term pain. That’s the trouble with youth–you don’t know much and what you do know is usually wrong. Thank goodness I finally grew up.

In the past I have spoken and written on this topic, cautioning you to stop taking on the responsibility for other people’s actions. I am not talking about your personal responsibilities that you are accountable for yourself. What I’m saying is, don’t get pulled into someone else’s troubles because they need a shoulder to cry on, someone to pay the bill or do the work and, ultimately, someone else to blame. And, as odd as it is, have you ever noticed they never admit that it’s their own fault they’re such a failure?

I have a quote on my twitter page that says, If it’s not your business – it’s not your burden. Go ahead and tape that on your refrigerator.

Think about that for a minute. Why would you take on someone else’s responsibilities? When did you become a pushover for bad judgment? Or are you so weak that you continue to pay for their self-made problems to keep the peace or at least keep them out of your house? Maybe you’re just tired of hearing them whine and bellyache, and when you throw time, money and energy at them it keeps them satiated for a few more months?

No matter what you “feel,” stop! Don’t do it. Let them wallow in the mess they made, or at least have them call someone else to bail them out AGAIN. You know, if you keep stepping into their problems, they are never going to learn how to do things on their own, or how to take responsibility for themselves and their actions or figure out how to live without their wants (not needs) that eat up their spendable time and money.

You are not responsible for how they treat themselves. You’re only responsible for how you treat yourself because you matter. Don’t get me wrong; they matter too, but they can matter to themselves or someone else.

I know this sounds harsh, and I am pretty sure you’re going to tell me that you’ve tried to cut the purse strings or apron strings or emotional ties. I can hear you saying, but, Deb, you don’t understand. They are—– I’ll let you fill in the blank with all of the excuses for not teaching them, helping them or preparing them for life. Trust me, I have heard them all and I’m still not convinced that your indulging them is good for them.

Life is hard, but protecting someone who could protect themselves is not helping anyone. In fact, you may be single-handedly setting them up for catastrophic failure when you and the money are gone.

Let me close with this final thought about moving beyond the way you’ve been treated by others in the past. I need for you to remember that, no matter what “they did” “to you,” for most people, that was done in the past. How you live your life today–in the NOW–and in the future is in your hands. And as hard as it may feel to bury the past hurts and not dig them up again, this is a decision you need to make and be comfortable with for your best life ever.

I’m not here to tell you it will be easy, in fact, it is never easy. I am here to tell you that you are not responsible for how people treat you, but you are responsible for how you treat others and yourself. Treating yourself with the mental, emotional and physical respect that you deserve, is the inner strength you will have to find to set your feelings and emotions away, to walk tall and proud, unencumbered by your past, into the light of freedom to be at peace for the rest of your life.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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