READY: Just shake it off and step up

Mary Ready, Ready or Not

There are days when I love writing this column. At other times, I want to turn in my resignation. I’m emotionally thin-skinned, and I take it personally when readers hate me. My neighbor Jack used to write for The Log some years ago, but he tells me he had to quit because he grew tired of the death threats.

There’s a reason why it’s called an OPINION column.

Yet some folks selectively read (or half read) what a columnist has written and draw conclusions that he or she is a horrible person based on random words taken out of context.

Recently I wrote about immigration, that and dogs being among my favorite topics.

A reader was thoughtful enough to let me know that I hated and feared brown-skinned people while advocating white-skinned European immigrants be given special privileges under the law.

Had it not been for his insightful comments, I would have gone on thinking all human beings were worthy of my compassion and respect. So, I must stop singing, “Red, brown, yellow, black or white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” 

 Now that I’ve been informed that I’m a hater, and my “rant stinks” of bigotry, that little Sunday School song must be deleted from my repertoire.

Silly me, I thought I had written about the inconsistently administered policies of our government agencies, ICE being one example. Apparently I was really writing about how I hated a large segment of our population without even knowing it.

So, I’m truly grateful to my gentle reader for pointing out what a detestable racist I am.

Hmmm. Should I embroider the scarlet letter “H” for “hater” or “B” for “bigot” on all my clothing?

Perhaps you’ve also been called names by others who think they know your heart better than you or your loved ones do. It’s like being buried under the weight of cruel words when you’ve done or said nothing to deserve it. 

A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule that fell into an abandoned well. The farmer heard the mule braying or whatever mules do when they fall into wells.

After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving.  Instead, he called his neighbors together, told them what happened, and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical!  But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling, and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him.  It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up!

This he did, blow after blow.  “Shake it off and step up … shake it off and step up … shake it off and step up!”  He continued repeating this phrase to encourage himself.  No matter how painful the blows or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up.

It wasn’t long before the mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of the well.  What seemed likely to bury him actually blessed him — all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

When someone heaps the dirt of disparagement on your head, remember that forgiveness, kindness, faith, prayer, praise and hope all are excellent ways to “shake it off and step up” out of the wells of discouragement and distress in which someone’s malicious words have entombed us.

All satire aside, I must confess I don’t know the best way to respond to people who hate without even knowing the person who is the target of their hatred. A columnist friend of mine says he doesn’t read any of the comments about his articles. I’d try that, but I’m afraid I’ll miss out on the kind comments that I often get.  

Besides cultivating thicker skin, perhaps the best advice is to respond to meanness with graciousness and to be at peace within yourself. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

I’ll be working on that peace thing.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.