When I was a freshman in high school, I got the lead in the school musical. I was so excited – I could barely contain myself. I couldn’t believe it – it was like a dream come true. I was going to be Laurey in one of my favorite musicals of all time – Oklahoma! I remember smiling to myself as I walked into the bathroom and entered one of the stalls.
And then my smile disappeared.
Because there, on one of the stall walls, were some very unsavory words – written about ME.
It was connected to the fact that, as a freshman, I had landed the lead in the school musical. Someone didn’t like it.
Someone didn’t like it AT ALL.
And that someone – whoever it was – wanted the world to know how she (or he) felt about it.
My heart sank. It felt like someone punched my chest and all the breath fell out of my lungs in one deflating moment.
I spent a good majority of the next few days trying to figure out who didn’t like me, why they didn’t like me, and what I could do about it.
If I would have understood the concept of “THE FIVE” at that time, I would have taken a deep breath, refilled my lungs, and walked out of that bathroom with my head held high.
But it’s not that easy.
And I know ALL of you reading this post have gone through something similar. It may have destroyed your reputation, hurt your feelings, ripped up your self-esteem, or lost you some friends.
It might have been a nasty rumor, a horrible Tweet (retweeted too many times), abusive words, or something said directly to your face.
But I have a new barometer for you.
A way to balance words of wisdom and words of waste.
It’s a concept I wish I would have employed in my own high school years. And I’ve been passing it on to my high school students for as long as I can remember.
So what is “THE FIVE”?
It’s the idea that at any given time you have five people in your life who really matter to you. Five people whose words actually hold weight. Five people who will tell you the truth in LOVE and who only do so because they want the BEST for you.
Now, you have to be careful who you grant permission into “THE FIVE”. Because you are giving these people the keys to your heart. You are allowing them to shape and mold who you are and who you are to become.
Let’s go back to that bathroom stall.
If I had employed the idea of “THE FIVE,” the first question I would have asked myself would have been,
“Does this statement come from someone who matters? Is this something someone in my FIVE might say about me?”
Because if the answer is “NO”, then I would walk out of that bathroom and completely work to FORGET what was written on that wall.
If I think there might be an element of truth to that statement, I could call or talk to one of my five and ask them to tell me the truth. Is this something about me I need to work on or fix? And if so, how can I start the process of becoming a better version of myself?
The statement on that bathroom stall did NOT come from someone who loved and cared for me. It was written out of hurt and misunderstanding of my character. They were upset, and really, it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.
But lies, rumors, hurtful words aren’t always easy to contend with in that arena. The arena where much of your public reputation is determined by what people say in the cafeteria, in the bathrooms, on the court, in the locker room.
That’s why our resolve has to be firm.
We have to choose the people whose opinion really counts.
And there may be years when that list of five narrows down to three. Or maybe even down to one. I have spoken to students and friends who sometimes feel like there’s no one they can depend on. It’s a struggle to find people we can trust.
So you must choose carefully.
When hurtful things happen, ask yourself these questions about the person or the rumor and it might help to put things in perspective:
- Are these words bringing LIFE to me? Are they lifting me up? Are they spoken in LOVE? Because if not, then that person doesn’t have my best interest at heart, and they are definitely not one of my five.
- Will I REMEMBER these words in a year? In 6 months? In a few weeks? Will they even MATTER in those same time frames? Because if not, then they shouldn’t matter now.
- On a scale of 1 to 10 – how much do these words (or does this person) matter in the scheme of the entire life I’ve lived so far? Because I’ve lived a lot of life, and there are more important things for me to focus on than a few words spit out by someone who didn’t think about the consequences.
- Is this person one of “THE FIVE”? Because if not, I should disregard and move on.
- Am I allowing these words/this person to control my joy? Am I giving them too much rent free space in my head? Because someone who only wants to bring me down does not deserve that space.
If you are a person of faith, you’ll know that ULTIMATELY, the only audience that matters is Jesus. And everything on this page changes, because even your FIVE will let you down. They are human, and everyone who is human will let you down.
But we are meant, on this earth, to live in community with other flawed human beings. So, as you choose your five, keep in mind that you can’t “expect” them to be perfect. But you can choose people whose lives reflect the kind of life YOU want to be living.
People who are slow to speak and quick to listen.
People who want the best for you and love you unconditionally.
People who CHOOSE joy daily and understand that they are not perfect and neither are you.
People who challenge you to be your best and love you enough never to leave you the same.
People who would feel honored and humbled to be part of your five – who want to grow and become better themselves.
So next time you feel like your chest is being crushed under the weight of hurtful rumors, words, or gossip, ask yourself if it came from one of your five.
Because if it did, then maybe you need to reconsider who you chose to be part of your five.
And if not, make a choice to walk away. Ask yourself the questions from earlier in this post. Take a moment, regroup, and turn the other cheek.
Your worth is not determined by someone else. Your worth is not determined by words. Your worth is not determined by your public reputation, your friends, your enemies, your teachers or even your parents.
You just have worth. By being human. By being alive.
By being you.
Who are the people you include in YOUR FIVE? How do/did you choose them? What qualities are you looking for in people whose opinions really matter? I’d love to hear from you – please let me know in the comments below!
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