Don’t Take This Personally


Too Sensitive

I know this about myself: I can be too sensitive. It’s a detriment to me. And a detriment to others.

When I got a phone call about the dishwasher, I was bothered. I was in my 20s. I had recently sold my home to an elderly gentleman. The following week, he was calling to yell at me that the dishwasher in the home had overflowed. The kitchen floor was soaked. And it was all my fault.

He was rude.
I was offended.

As we talked, I learned he had put dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher instead of dishwasher detergent. It had bubbled to overflowing. Of course it would.

How was this my fault?

Don’t Believe Everything

We suffer unnecessarily when we take things too personally. That’s why I love my third “Agreement with God” of the four I’ve compiled for myself (See #1, Give the Benefit of the Doubt, and #2, Let Go of Being Right).

# 3. Don’t take it personally.

me center of world

When we assume someone is being rude to us, we often react badly, defensively. It causes conflict and creates mountains out of molehills.

  • How can they do this to me?
  • Why don’t they like me?
  • Why are they so mean?

And when we get too much praise? We can hold compliments too closely as well, believing every word that is said. We grow proud and haughty and entitled.

When we think everything is about us—good or bad—we’re actually being selfish.

And unrealistic.

The stories we make up in our head are usually just that: stories.

Whose Movie Is This?

We each cast ourselves as the star (and director and producer) in our own movie. All our life’s plots revolve around us. And all the people in our relationships are supporting actors.

But here’s the catch:

The supporting actors in our movies are actually busy starring in their own movies.

We all make ourselves the center of our universes.

So when our plots intersect, there’s always more going on than we realize.

It’s Not Personal

So don’t take it personally.


The way someone treats us reveals less about us and more about them. Less about our life and more about theirs.

Knowing that others aren’t centered around us keeps us humble.

  • It frees us from arrogance.
  • It reduces conflicts.
  • It stabilizes our relationships.

We are more free to love others with no strings attached when we are less dependent on their approval for our self-worth and when we’re less disturbed by their disapproval.

Emptying ourselves of taking everything personally helps us live like Christ. With more peace, joy, and love. And definitely more grace.

What God Thinks

Jesus depended more on what God thought of him instead of what man thought of him.

Can we believe it for ourselves, too?

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:17

When God’s thoughts about us are the ones that matter the most, we feel safer, valued, and beloved. His thoughts are true. His thoughts are reality.

He loves us because he is love.

The motivations we attach to others’ thoughts may have portions of truth in them, but they also contain large doses of our imagination. (Don’t take your own thoughts too personally either—you may just be tired or hungry or stressed.)

I later learned more truth about the gentleman and the dishwasher and his soap suds. I met one of his daughters. She told me how concerned they were about him. His dementia was getting worse. They weren’t sure he should even be living alone.

Dementia? I hadn’t known that.

Now it made sense. His rant to me wasn’t about me at all. It was about him.

I didn’t need to take it personally.

I rarely should.

It’s not about me as much as I think it is.

* * *

When have you been too sensitive? Do you ever take things too personally? Please share your thoughts here.

We sung this song, Abba, with our church yesterday. It moved me. It fits here.


~ * ~ * ~

See all 4 agreements (click on individual infographics)

1-Benefit-Doubt 2-Being-Right 3-Take-Personal 4-Show-Up

image map infographics

1-Give the benefit of the doubt | 2-Let go of being right | 3-Don’t take it personally | 4-Just show up

64 thoughts on “Don’t Take This Personally

  1. Patricia Krank

    This is really good Lisa, and oh, so true, that we are each actors starring in our own movies. People are so funny aren’t they? Aren’t WE?
    Thank you for sharing the 6 reminders.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, we are all quite funny, I agree, Patti. The graphic of “me” at the center of the universe was very convicting to me because I do star in all my own movies-in-my-head. 🙂

  2. Sarah Geringer

    Such a great post, Lisa. I need those infographics badly! I’m a highly sensitive person, which is good in many ways but not so good in the little things. Thanks for honestly sharing this. I found it on #glimpsesofhisbeauty, and I’m sharing your post on Facebook and Twitter this week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Being sensitive has such pros and cons, I agree, Sarah. There are times it’s a great quality to have, but other times, it’s overload. Sigh. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    This hits the nail smack on the head for me. I am overly sensitive and I know I take way too much to heart. I really need to memorize the point that “Others words reveal less about me and more about them.” Amen. God’s opinion, ultimately, is the only One that counts. Think I will make a copy of your post so that I can refer to it often when I feel that old sensitivity creeping in and hopefully I will take things less personally. Awesome post!
    Bev xx

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes it is hard to navigate the world when we’re the sensitive types. I have to remind myself to “not take it personally” often. And it does help. Yesterday I was in a situation where I started down that road of being too sensitive, but I decided that God knew the situation better than I did, and I needed to change the story I was telling myself in my mind. I can be quite imaginative in there. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement, Bev!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. I love your addition, Michele: “and make lunch for the whole crew.” I don’t take on that role as often as you do with your house full of boys. Maybe in your next movie you can bring in a caterer. 🙂 That’s how I would like all my movie productions to be run. lol

  4. Bill (cycleguy)

    As I have gotten older as a pastor, I have had to grow thicker skin. I am not hard-hearted or cold but neither do i feel as though I should operate at the whim of everyone. “The sure way to failure is trying to please everyone.” Thanks for the wise words today Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m hearing the word “balance” underneath your words, Bill. You’ve found the key, yes? We want to be sensitive enough to be sympathetic and empathetic, but not so sensitive that we crumble every day at the world’s problems. Thanks for adding to the discussion here.

  5. Linda Stoll

    This, I love, Lisa –>’The supporting actors in our movies are actually busy starring in their own movies.’

    What a fabulous take away for those of us who think the whole word orbits around us.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad our friends/family can’t read our minds and see how important we each find ourselves to be. 🙂 The Lord, who can, definitely shows grace to put up with a world full of *stars*.

  6. Horace Williams Jr

    Happy Monday Lisa! I wanted to drop by and say hello.(It has been awhile due to health battles) I really like your new agreements you are sharing with us here. I look forward to next weeks nugget:) The points you make about not taking things so personally are true. I love the image you created with the earth to drive the point home! I have played the role of movie producer on more than one occasion. I will say, as a young adult, I used dish soap when I had to dishwasher detergent and had the same experience as the older gentleman. I now used dishwasher pods only! I have memorized the fruits of the Spirit passage in the past few years to help keep myself focused on being more like Christ. Thank you for sharing this story to help remind us who we belong to and we need to be an example of his love. Sorry for rambling. Great to visit here again. Have a wonderful week and God bless you and yours.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s good to hear from you, Horace. I pray that the rest of 2017 will be an easier health year for you than the first half has been! So you know through experience what happens when you put the wrong detergent in the dishwasher. 😉 I learned not to do it from my gentleman’s mishap. ha.

      Memorizing the fruit of the Spirit is a great resource to have in your mind. I like to use those verses to walk around the sanctuary at church before everyone else gets there, and offer a prayer for each person that will be sitting there to receive one of those fruit. We are blessed to have those words to memorize and the reality of fulfillment underneath them. I appreciate you sharing this!

  7. Natalie

    An agreement with God is a serious thing–far more weighty than making one with myself. That alone is something for me to think about today. Thanks for that–and the specifics of this post–today, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Natalie. Making the agreement with God adds a necessary gravitas to it for me. Without God in the equation, I could never walk them out anyway. I get in my own way enough as it is. 🙂

  8. Alice Walters

    Thanks, Lisa! I needed to hear this (when don’t I?). There’s always a backstory when we receive someone’s negativity, isn’t there? I think the more grace we acknowledge and receive from Christ, the more we can extend it to others, whether we ever know the backstory or not. Blessings from your neighbor at Anita’s.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, excellent commentary, Alice. There is always a backstory, and we don’t have to know it to still extend grace. If we could live that way all the time, all our relationships would improve instantly. Thanks for sharing here.

  9. Barbara H.

    I am way too sensitive, too. When I was in college, I used to hate to go to the lunchroom by myself, and part of that was cringing at the thought of people watching me go through the line and wondering why I didn’t have any friends or dates. Then one day a light bulb went off – they were probably not even seeing me, much less thinking about me. That was freeing in some ways, and thankfully I didn’t have to go alone too very often. 🙂

    And you’re so right that we can turn compliments over again and again in our minds as well as hurtful words. So true that we’re all the stars in our own movies. Reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s saying that humble people don’t think less of themselves – they think of themselves less. I definitely need to do that.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The C. S. Lewis quote is perfect here. Thanks for sharing that, Barbara. I relate to what you’re saying about the cafeteria. I have a recurring situation where I feel awkward, not having a lot of people to talk to, and I always think people notice that. But when I think logically about it, I know you’re right; they are usually doing their own things and not paying attention. Sometimes I break out of that bubble quickly; other times I can linger there too long. ha.

  10. Pam

    Lisa, you wrote this one for me, didn’t you??? Being too sensitive has often been true of me and all the truth here is so true. Thankfully, the Lord has set me free from so much that plagued me when I was younger, but as I work toward finishing up this book project there are old whispers that would seek to undo the truth He planted in my heart, mind, and spirit. This was something that felt so much like a wonderful chat with a friend as I was reading it and the song was indeed a perfect fit!! Thanks so much!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad this spoke to you, Pam. It’s an issue I deal with, so I assumed others might too. With your book, I’m sure that the more you have at stake, the more sensitive you could become. Praying for all to go well as you go down the home stretch!

  11. Liz

    “We are more free to love others with no strings attached when we are less dependent on their approval for our self-worth” <- This right here is gold! My Mom always says, "Get over yourself" when I get in a huff over something that feels more personal that it should. Even though it sometimes stings a tad, it's always good advice! Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your mom gives good advice. But, yes, I can also imagine it hurts a little when given. 🙂 Usually when someone tells us that is when we are at a bad spot anyway. ha. I should put that advice on a sticky note on my fridge to remind myself of it more often. Thanks for sharing it here, Liz!

  12. jodie filogomo

    Man, this is me to a tee!!
    Although I have gotten better through the years. I think it’s especially hard in emails and written correspondence (like these comments) because you don’t hear the caring in my voice! But sometimes I think how could they say that—and then I realize I probably say the same thing….

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Jodie. With written communication we miss out on so much–body language, tone of voice, etc. It’s easy to jump to conclusions without those cues underneath the words! We’d do well to just assume the best and go forward. Easier said than done though. Thanks for sharing these thoughts; I’m imagining lots of sweetness in your voice. 🙂

  13. Erin @

    Your post is amazingly true. I give the same advice to clerks, in stores, when I see them being mistreated or yelled at. When it is my turn in line, I look the cashier in the eye and say, “That was not about you. That person has something going on in their personal life, so do not take their rant to heart.”

    We never know what someone is dealing with- a death in the family, a recent Cancer diagnosis, a spouse walking out, a runaway child, etc… The world needs more prayer and less judgement. Thank you, Lisa, for always speaking encouraging truths.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, that is a great thing to do, Erin! I’m sure your words speak life to the clerks at just the right moment they need some encouragement. And I need to follow that advice for myself in reverse when I feel the clerks are being rude. ha. You’re right that we rarely know what others are going through; showing grace is always the best thing to do! It’s definitely how I want others to treat me.

  14. Leslie

    Lisa, again, I just love this series of posts from you. The infographics are lovely and so practical and I can TOTALLY relate to today’s topic because I am way too sensitive. Thank you so much! I’ll be sharing this on my FB page and also bookmarking it to come back and re-read!!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate you sharing, Leslie. This topic is something I deal with a lot, too. Sensitivity can seem like a good thing at times, but it also can be frustrating. 🙂

  15. Debbie Putman

    Oh, how I need to remember this. I’ll be printing it out and reading it over and over. Like Lois Flowers, I wanted to pick something to highlight as my favorite part, but all I can do is give a hearty “amen to all of it.

  16. Meghan E. Weyerbacher

    Good stuff, Lisa. I try and remember these things too in relationships. I used to feel obligated to keep things rolling in relationships, even when it seemed when other’s weren’t – but when God helped me grow in that area, I became less people-dependent and free in Him. Now I live knowing who I am in him and when I am around others I behave solely from that. No acting or trying too hard, no assuming or living in fear. When you remember His truth it really does set you free!!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Those are such important life-lessons, Meghan. It’s crazy how we think we’re doing people a favor when we adjust who we are based on who they are, but in reality it’s the opposite. The more authentically real we are, the more others can relate. And the more free we are. I totally agree with you. Thanks for sharing here what you’ve learned!

  17. Yvonne Chase

    This sounds like a take on the very popular book The Four Agreements. Don’t take it personally is one of my favorite agreements. What others do is a reflection on them and has little to do with us.

    Good stuff…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it is, Yvonne! Reading “The Four Agreements” is the exact reason I came up my own list of 4. “Don’t take it personally” is one of the author’s original 4 (if I’m remembering correctly), and I tweaked my other 3 agreements to better fit where I am instead of from the book. But such a powerful book to me.

  18. Jean Wise

    great reminder. I just got a general email from someone I follow and she referred to something that I immediately wondered if she was writing about me. Reflecting on this, I know she wasn’t but here I sit with this pit in my tummy wondering and feeling guilty when it has nothing to do with me. I’ve noticed with emails and text so much can be misconstrued. communication is so important and our egos makes it all about me anyway. good reminder

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I totally know what you’re talking about, Jean. I had a friend recently post something on Facebook that made me wonder if she was talking about me. (I’m still wondering and it’s been 2 weeks! ha). Out of her hundreds of friends, why did I think she was attacking me personally this way? It is definitely egotistical how we can turn everything back towards “me.” 🙂

  19. floyd

    Good one, Lisa. It all starts with that ugly pride. Like you mentioned, it’s about humility… you and I are on the same path, sister. If you stop for water I might catch up with you… I’m getting close… in a non-stocking kind of way!

  20. Carol

    This is so perfect. I teach grades 7-10 and I’m telling them this constantly – It’s not really about you. However, I need this reminder just as much, I’m afraid! 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh yes, this is definitely needed with teenagers. But you’re right, just as needed with us! Hopefully we’ve gotten quicker at figuring it out than we could a few years ago. 🙂

  21. Debby

    True, true, true. Your words are the healing to the thorn in my side that pricks my tender spot. It’s a wound that I can’t seem to nurse to complete healing. But God…
    Stopping by from Chasing Community linkup.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, but God…. I need grace in this area as well, Debby. I’m not a total addict with my phone by any means, but I still mentally struggle to put it down if I’m in the middle of something on it when a real human walks into a room. 🙁 It should be a no-brainer.

  22. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Just have to say I’ve read through this post several times already. It is really helping in praying for some relationships that I have really been hurt by because I am so sensitive and take so much personally. This has been a real godsend for me.
    Thanks again…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad this spoke to you, Bev. Isn’t it a tough issue to deal with? Sigh. I have to pray about this as well, some occasions and relationships more than others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      But that also reflects on how kind you are to others. (I love your latest post in kindness!) It is a double-sided issue. Sometimes the most sensitive people are also the most compassionate. But not always. 🙂 I want to be compassionate toward others but not overly sensitive about myself. We’re all learning how to do this! Blessings to you, Sarah.

  23. Brenda

    Exactly! Well said, Lisa. I tell my oldest son this all the time. People aren’t thinking about us, they’re too busy thinking about themselves–and thinking others are thinking about them. So much of what offends us never had a thing to do with us to begin with. — Good word today, Lisa, thanks for sharing. ((hug))

  24. Mandy Hughes

    Thank you for this, Lisa! I know there have been times when I have been more sensitive than needed (especially in conversations with my hubby). This is super helpful. I look forward to the last one you’re sharing with us next week 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, sometimes we are most sensitive with those we love the most. We’re so in tuned with what they think—or what WE think they think. ha. It’s always good to communicate about these things with our spouses to make sure our sensitivity-meter isn’t geared too high. 🙂 Thanks for stopping in, Mandy.

  25. TC Avey

    This was really good, Lisa. I’ve been caring for a loved one who is experiencing depression. It’s been difficult to not take things personal when they lash out.
    This post helped me remember that her pain and frustration isn’t about me. I need to release it all to God so I can love her better.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You hit the nail on the head, TC: when we don’t take things personally, we’re more able to love people in the ways they need. Praying for your ability to pass along grace to your friend and for her healing!

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  28. June

    This is excellent, Lisa! and from the number of comments you’re getting I’d say a well-needed topic! We never know what is going on in the lives of others, do we? and the same is true with us. Grace is the word 🙂 Have a blessed week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have to remind myself all the time to not take it personally. Just this week alone I’ve found that I’ve gotten offended several different times over small things. And none of them were really about ME per se, but more about the other person’s personality style. But instead, I harbored an inside grudge (hopefully none of them knew!), and have had to turn it into forgiveness both towards them and myself. Yes, grace is the word! Thanks, June.

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