“Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin”
If you’re going to be successful, you have to have thick skin! You know, that ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments about who you are and what you do.
That was really brought home to me by an email I recently received:
“Dear Barbra, I have just received a revelation of why I get depressed and it is thrilling! While my intellect is at the graduate college level, my ability to withstand offense is very childish.”
The writer goes on to say, “Offenses collect on me like lint and I have buried their effects in the roots of bitterness. All the while smiling and ‘praise the Lord,’ never letting anyone know.”
John Bevere found this phenomenon of “taking offense” so troubling, he wrote a book entitled The Bait of Satan in which he discusses how Satan destroys lives and ministries because people are so easily offended.
Obviously, my writer is not the only one who struggles with the ability to withstand offense! However, if you wish to be successful, it is imperative to grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin.
“The higher your heights, the greater number of detractors you will have and the sharper their attacks will be.” Paul Brunson noted in his article, “20 Successful Habits I learned Working For Two Billionaires.” (Oprah Winfrey and Enver Yucel)
“How do you actually develop that thick skin?” you may ask, because this is one of those principles which sounds amazingly true but exceedingly difficult to develop. As seems to be the case in any principle I share, I’ve had to learn the hard way how to apply that theory!
As the e-mail writer experienced, I too put on a mask of confidence for years but would cry myself to sleep many nights because I worried that someone didn’t approve of me or didn’t like what I had said or done.
I remember the day I walked down the hall and noticed two nurses with their heads huddled together in a whispered conversation. As I grew near, they looked at me and immediately stopped talking. I, of course, just knew they were talking about me! And, of course, it obviously wasn’t good, because they stopped their discussion!
For the rest of the day and into the evening and even the next day, I worried about that incident. (I obviously had not yet developed armor-plated skin!) However, that was a turning point in my self-development. I instituted two rules for myself which may help you as well:
- Assume the best until you know the worst. Until I actually hear someone say they don’t like me or hated what I had to say, I’m going to assume they like me and anything I’m doing.
- If I can’t let some bothersome thought go within 24 hours, I have to take action.
- Assume the best until you know the worst:
I found out later the two nurses were talking about a confidential family matter –
which of course had nothing to do with me And I have discovered along the way, that’s usually the case. People are not nearly as interested in us as we assume they are. . I’ve known people to obsess over a comment like a dog worrying a bone, and they’ve carried offenses for months or even for years!
When you grow thick, armor-plated skin, you learn to let those incidents bounce off you without ruining your day. Without that protective skin, your physical, emotional and spiritual health all suffer. Medical research reveals 80-90% of illness is related to stress!
- If you can’t let something go within 24 hours, take action.
For me, that usually means talking to the person involved – “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about the other day. I was just wondering if I have done anything to offend you.”
The worst that can happen is you discover they really intended to be offensive. Usually, however, they’re just what we used to call being a busy-body, trying to run your life instead of taking care of their own business! “Oh, hon, you should never wear your hair that way!” “Why don’t you have more kids?” “You can’t even do your job right!” On and on it can go.
As you begin to grow that thick, armor-plated skin, something interesting happens. Instead of feeling attacked, you begin to step back and think a bit more logically. Why might that person be saying something so offensive? Generally speaking, it comes from a place of insecurity or hurt. The well-known saying, “Hurt people hurt people” is really true!
You might ask yourself, “Is there any truth to what that person said?” “Hmm, should I really get another hairstyle?” If the answer is, yes, you take action in that direction. If the answer is “no, I like myself the way I am,” you just realize that person is coming from a place of unhealed hurts which is their problem, not yours.
Action then takes the form of asking God to help you love them anyway, and/or forgive them.
Guess what? It can happen! That same writer observed in the e-mail: “I’ve seen people say hurtful things to you, and you don’t seem to be bothered.” And if I did it, you can do it – you too can grow thick, armor-plated skin!
The bottom line to growing thick, armor-plated skin? Two rules:
Rule 1: Assume the best until you know the worst.
Rule 2: If you can’t let some bothersome thought go within 24 hours, take action.
Learn to know who you are, like who you are and never let others distract you from your purpose and goals. You’ve got a job to do while you’re here on earth, and you need to Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin so you can do it!