Snarks and sharks

I am a self-confessed control freak.

I don’t want to take charge of other people. I just want to take of situations. I am such a people pleaser that I worry, worry, worry if I hurt anyone’s feelings.

That doesn’t sound like such a bad flaw, but really it is, especially for a writer. There is simply no way to please everyone. And everyone is a critic, both in a literary and a literal sense.

The experience of teaching has been a great teacher for me. I’ve never had any type of real discipline problem in my classroom. I have a quiet voice. I stand five feet tall, yet when I was younger, older adults who had never stepped into my classroom used to say, “Oh, I bet you have trouble keeping the kids in line.”

Their words fired me up. How dare they judge me without knowing me!

The first year I taught one of my students nominated me as “My Favorite Teacher.” A Channel 4 newsman surprised me with his camera crew, visited my classroom, and presented me with my award. I was on TV. Ms. Supa-stah Teachah.

Not.

I had to go through a season of my life when I learned I was not a superstar. Everyone didn’t love me.

There’s a quote by Natsuki Takaya that says, “Even the smallest of words can be the words to hurt you, or save you.” I learned the hard way that telling a teenager “no” can be dangerous to one’s self esteem.

The last year has been a struggle. I’ll never forget the week my mother was dying. I had two separate altercations with students, both simply because I told them “no”—not out of meanness but because I was doing what had to be done.

One might think my foes would have had more compassion, but they didn’t. I had to face a firing squad. Even when I tried to tell them I still cared about them, they responded with hatred.

It’s not like it was the first time I’ve had to deal with mean people.

Snarks and sharks. That’s what I call them.

Snarks are those people who serve up backhanded compliments and snide remarks. Sharks are those people who attack when their prey is weak.

I used to do a lot of ministry work, but I’ve learned snarks and sharks are everywhere, even churches. Once I took a group of junior high girls to Nashville for an overnight Bible study. A relative loaned us his old limousine—emphasis on OLD as in ratty and falling apart, and off we went.

The girls felt as though they were princesses on their way to a ball. (I didn’t tell them about the rat we found later in the trunk.) We stayed downtown in a hotel with inside doors, a first for most of them.

When we returned, a lady from our church compared us to “the streetwalkers on Second Avenue.” And all we did was eat in a restaurant, play a game of laser tag, and have a Bible study. (I will admit one of the girls entertained the crowd at the Melting Pot restaurant by doing a monkey walk in front of the restaurant window, but she wasn’t imitating a streetwalker. She was imitating a monkey. There is a difference.)

Why would someone say something so mean?

When my oldest son was born, he almost died from a prolapsed umbilical cord. I had to have emergency surgery, and he was completely blue at birth. The doctor told us to keep him at home for a month with limited visitors. Yet, the pastor of my church chastised me for missing. “God gave you that baby,” he said. “And he can take him away.”

How could someone be so callous?

I’ve often asked God, “Why do some people hurt us at our weakest moments? Why do some people kick us when all we want to do is be kind?”

The answer He gave me is really very easy. We can’t force another person to love us, and we can’t be forced to love anyone else. That’s why God gave us free will. Even though God loves us, He won’t force us to love Him.

Love isn’t love when it’s forced.

Love has to be given and accepted unconditionally. I know that if there is anything good in my life, anything that speaks of love, it is from God. God is love.

I’ve had limited success as a writer, mostly as a freelance journalist. If I had to give any advice to a beginner, I would say, “Toughen up. Not everyone is going to love what you write. You’ve got to learn your craft. Take the advice your mentors give to you in love, and shake off the criticism from the snarks and sharks.”

To be honest, if I do get published as a novelist, I will be overjoyed, but I won’t be overly surprised. You see, everything that I’ve ever prayed about and dedicated my heart to, God has given me. He gives us the desires of our heart because He puts them there.

I may not be writing for BMI, Rolling Stone, or any of the major music publications, but I get to write. I get to interview some of the most interesting people in the world. I couldn’t ask for anything more. A bigger paycheck couldn’t buy me any more happiness.

My goal as a writer for young adults is simple. I want my readers to believe that this author loves them and understands them, unconditionally, just as they are.

Maybe they’ll find a way to reciprocate that love and pay it forward, maybe even to a snark or a shark.

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18 thoughts on “Snarks and sharks

  1. So sorry you’ve been hurt. I know you do your best for the kids you are responsible for. I agree that your prayers will be answered! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you. I’m with you. I don’t understand why people choose to be mean. I once saw a bumper sticker that said “Mean People Suck” I agree.

    • I used to want people to tell me that they were sorry for hurting me. Now I just want them to own their actions instead of denying they did anything wrong. I think teenagers and adults alike don’t realize the power of their words. So at this point it’s really not about me, but I am on a crusade or a soapbox to hold my students accountable, not necessarily for what they do to me, but especially for what they do to their classmates. We’re starting to take bullying very seriously in our schools now, and I think it all begins with one word. I like Taylor Swift’s song “Mean.” It ranks right up there with that bumper sticker.

  2. I have definitely been on the receiving end of shark and snark attacks in my life. It does seem like people who try not to hurt people are often the very ones that the mean folks single out to attack. I used to work with a woman who would preface a comment with “I’m not trying to be mean, but…” and then proceed to cut me off at the knees. I had a middle school teacher who announced to the whole class that she thought everyone in the room was a member of the “middle class” except for me. I was mortified. I have no idea why she did that. My dad was an engineer, my mom a stay-at-home mom and we had a nice house and 2 cars. some people. Children bully other children and adults bully children and other adults whom they see as weak. The worst bullies of all do it in the name of religion. Why? Is there another reason other than because they can? Thankfully for me i have an abundance of kind and loving people in my life. My family, good friends, a great church family and a loving savior. but the mean people still hurt. Thanks for your honesty.

    • Thank you for your honesty. You really said it better than I could: The worst bullies do it in the name of religion. So true. And if there is ANYTHING on the face of the earth that really riles me up, it’s that fact. But instead of attacking the bully, I try to find the victims. I can’t do much, but one thing I do pretty well is love.

  3. When I was young, I too was a people pleaser. When I realized that some people are never happy, I finally gave up. To a certain extent, I put up a wall. I miss the joy that comes from “helping,” but it doesn’t give me the same feeling as when I was a child. Wish it did.

    As far as the snarks and sharks, I think they must be so unhappy or jealous that they have to belittle and/ or be mean to others.

    I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to put yourself out there. You tell it straight but with love. I’m sure you’re an awesome writer of young adult literature.

    • I know exactly what you mean about the walls. I have them too. It takes a very special person to get past mine. Thank you for the kind comments. I was a little nervous about posting this one, but I just felt as if it needed to be said, perhaps if just for me.

    • Yes, it is, even in the Christian industry. I learned that while schmoozing in Nashville, but I really like what I’m doing now because the parameters are fully established, and I fully support the mission of the publication I write for. If you’re going to write for mainstream media, develop a thick skin, but hold firm to your ethics. I exuberantly support Christians working in mainstream media, music industry, publishing, etc.

  4. I think people are mean because they don’t appreciate life. That sounds so general. What I mean is that we are all on our own individual journey. When we realize this, we are able to comprehend and empathize with the feelings and short comings of others.

    We are ALL but specks of dust on a giant spinning orb. Some people, for whatever reason, seem to think that their speck of dust is more significant.

    I have pretty much always been a people pleaser as well. I want everyone to be happy. I want people to like me. I want joy, hope, and harmony to abound. I also want a Harley and a swimming pool full of jello. Some things just won’t happen…. Point being, I have really come to be OK with the fact that some people are just meanies. I may not be able to control what others do, but I CAN control my response.

    Quoting my favorite husband, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”. All those sharks and snarks, just specks of dust. Where’s the Pledge???

  5. I’ve never been one for conflict. I don’t like tensions mixing with people I care about. I love happiness and smiles, and I’ll try just about anything to put a smile on your face. But, when people who are mean and hurtful just to be mean and hurtful refuse to staunch their poison, I would just kill ’em with kindness. It’s a cliche, but it’s one that I like because it doesn’t suggest conflict so much as love.

    • You have the best answer of all. What I miss most about you is your smile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without a smile. You have definitely had a positive impact on my life. 🙂

  6. People definitely don’t like being told “No”, even when that’s the most loving thing you can do. Very tough.

    I’m thankful for Daniel. He listens to me talk out my frustrations when the snarks and sharks get to me and helps me get back on my feet when they knock me down.

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