I'm taking a moment away from my usual theological matters to discuss something more practical. I call it a matter of personal, internal integrity.
There are those who would seek to put you down and build themselves up. Perhaps they are simply cruel, or perhaps they are incredibly insecure. They constantly seek a verdict, to prove to you, to themselves, and to others, how they are better than you. Maybe they just need validation. Maybe they want to compete and defeat you to make themselves feel better. Maybe they are jealous of you. Whatever the reason, they seem to find ways to point out your flaws and struggles in such a way as to celebrate something they consider better about themselves. Who knows, maybe they are incredibly dependent on what you think of them and are just aching for you to admit that they have beaten you in something.
There are two ways of handling a situation like this, and a person like this. The first way is to engage it. This is often an unconscious knee-jerk response we run to. We immediately take a position of control... control regarding how they see us, how others see us in light of their comments, and how we feel toward them and the "audience" out there that might be observing. We don the proverbial fig leaf, trying to control how we are perceived, trying to cover our nakedness, shielding our gaze even from our own soul, finding ourselves back in the Garden of Eden once more. But as we lock horns in this fools' contest, we lose something. Actually, we lose many things, but we essentially lose our internal integrity and composure. We lose ourselves. We run behind our protective wall and take the compromised emotional position, trying to catch all the juggling plates to prevent them all from crashing to the floor. It is not only futile, it is self-punishing. We lock ourselves in, into a holding chamber where we are neither free to breathe nor feel. Anxiety, tension, neurotic energy controlling and driving us into the dirt, making us feel small, horrible...
But there is another way... a way that embraces our personal, internal integrity. It recognizes what the other is trying to do, it feels how it feels (the hurt, the betrayal, the pain, the anger), it allows and has peace with those feelings, and it lets the other's overtures fall to the floor. It refuses to play their game, even if the game is unintentional and unconscious. It refuses to run in the fools' competition -not because of the other person but simply because to do so would destroy and cloud and hamper our own God-given potential. It chooses the freedom of accepted, personal integrity with total vulnerability, and it shuns the yoke of perfectionism and the impossible burden of preventing rejection. It lets go of control and finds freedom. It lets go of them and finds freedom.
It can, in effect, say within, "I see what you are doing, and I don't like it. But more than my desire to catch these flaming darts and extinguish them all is my desire to be free and pursue life and peace and my God-given potential. I do not need to answer your accusations. I can be... and be perfectly content, even in the face of those who would reject and betray me for the 'flaws' they seek to point out in me, staying with myself rather than abandoning myself to the servitude and hard-labor camps, carrying the yoke of trying to prove myself, of trying to earn closeness and love. And better than that, I can be fully exposed and yet at peace so as to find real closeness with those who are good to be close to, enjoying communion with them in ways that God intended."