Are You Thin Skinned?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, November 5, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I remember when I realized I have no control over what people choose to think about me. It was the same season I realized that I didn't have to take it personal if someone disagreed with or disliked me. It was also when I stopped trying to justify myself to others, stopped trying to 'win' arguments, and started listening for more important things.

To be fair, it was a very long season. It's been a process of maturing and letting my own skin 'thicken' so that I could see the world from a less defensive, less self-centered perspective. I have NOT arrived. I recognize how far I have to go when I interact with mature seniors, and how far I've come when I talk with teens and twenty-somethings. For all of us, maturity is a perpetual work in progress. And one essential benefit of maturity is having a thicker skin.

What do I mean by that? Well, maybe another way of saying it is being less REACTIVE and more RESPONSIVE. Someone who is reactive always seems to have a level 10 reaction to a level 1 event. Yes, this can be a stress management issue or an insecurity issue, but reactive people almost always have a maturity issue - from a traumatic wound, a 'blind spot' in our character, or for any number of reasons.

Reactive people are immature and do not last long under personal critique or pressure. They see others as an obstacle to their desires, and most opportunities through potential personal gain. Reactive people are the first ones to use controlling tactics, and they are the last ones to grow personally, especially if that growth is from negative feedback.

Responsive people tend to be mature enough to separate their worth from their experience. These people are not ignited by conflict, but rather curious about its cause. They seek to discern how the situation came to be, and then how to maximize the benefits. These are the people who value feedback, even negative feedback, and know how to use it to grow and become stronger. These are also people who know their maturity is essential to helping others grow and for communities to be healthy.

How do we cultivate maturity, and have a thicker skin for the abrasive nature of life? It starts with what we hold as important in our hearts. Read 1 Peter 3:8-22.

Notice in verse 15 that Peter tells us the key to maturity. He says, "Do not fear as they [the world] does, but sanctify Jesus Christ as Lord in your heart, always being ready to give a reason for the hope that you have." That word sanctify, from the Greek, means to 'dedicate' or to 'honor as holy.' Everything else Peter encourages us to do in these verses hangs on this question: is Jesus Lord of our life? And Peter doesn't just leave it as a question of Jesus being in charge. He's not talking about some "Jesus club" where we just pledge allegiance to Jesus in order to maintain our membership. Peter makes it clear that our maturity starts with dedicating ourselves to follow Jesus - making Jesus the most sacred voice we hear in every decision and situation.

Once Jesus replaces our self-protection, our desires, and our fears, we can become mature. We can have a thick skin and be responsive in even the most threatening situations. We gain perspective by recognizing that God is bigger, we gain patience and peace by recognizing He is in control, and we give a healthy response focused on His good instead of our gain.

So how thick is your skin? Do you have a gentle and well-measured answer to offenses, or do you fly off the handle at anything that seems like it’s directed at you? If you find yourself having level 10 reactions to level 1 situations, maybe it’s time to do a heart check and see what you are holding there as sacred and holy. It's probably not Jesus, and He is likely being pushed aside by other concerns that have control over your life.

It’s time to take stock in what you really believe, and to get your heart and life lined up with the only one who can help you become fully mature. One practical situation we can hold up a mirror and reflect on is this upcoming election. This election season has demonstrated the immaturity, ignorance, and self-righteous attitudes we have in America. It has revealed those who follow Jesus, and those who follow other religious, social, cultural, political, etc. agendas first. It has shown the exaggerated reactiveness of those who tearfully cry foul about "hombres" and "emails." It has shown the hypocrisy of those who cry “racism,” “sexism,” and then vote primarily to achieve a racial or sexual milestone in political history. It has shown the frailty of a Christianized social culture that bears nothing of the power and unity of the Spirit of Christ (a form of godliness, but denying His power).

America is immature. It’s not because we are a young nation, but because our republic is being torn apart by REACTIVE people who are demanding their rights and abdicating their responsibilities. You have to be RESPONSIVE to truly be responsible, you must be thick skinned to find opportunity in adversity, and you must be dedicated to Jesus as Lord, from the core of your being, to be fully mature.

I invite you to reflect again on 1 Peter 3:8-22, and I invite you to consider your personal and spiritual maturity. Where and how might God be wanting to strengthen and grow you? (Hint: If you feel like ranting all over my comments section right now, it could be a clue to some areas for thicker skin growth by trusting and listening to Jesus.)

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