The past few days I’ve been thinking about a twist on a word that is unfortunately used a lot these days: “Spite.” We see it all around us—on the news, in politics, and in the way people behave. We hear things like: “Because that person did or said this, I will do that just to show them!” It’s one example of how spite works. I recently looked up the definition of “spite” and it says the following: “A malicious, usually petty desire to harm, annoy, frustrate, or humiliate another person.” Not exactly a positive approach to life.
There is a twist to this word, however, that I think will help us succeed in life, and discover joy. At the very bottom of the definition of “spite,” it says this: “In spite of, in disregard, or defiance of, despite.” In other words, the determination to rise above a challenge, obstacle, insult, or negative mindset to accomplish something we desire. That action completely turns this word around: “I will succeed in spite of how bleak things look now!” It can be used in a variety of circumstances to convert a negative situation into a positive approach:
“I will continue to be a kind person, in spite of how I’ve been treated!”
“Despite the way I feel, I will push forward and get things done!”
“I will go forward with faith in spite of the large mountain sitting in my path!”
“Despite how dark the future seems, I will hold on to the light inside of me and shine forth!”
I think you get the idea. We can twist “spite” to work for us, instead of against us. We can use it as a way to make an important difference in this crazy world. Can you envision how wonderful life would be if everyone made this effort? If we looked at a challenging situation and strived to make it better instead of worse? If, instead of taking offense at something others said or did, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and decided to quite literally, turn the other cheek? Maybe take a step back, breathe deeply, and consider how we can proceed without spite getting in the way?
It’s not easy. It’s human nature to want to strike back. When someone insults us, the tendency is to lash out in a similar fashion. Or we return to our homes and fume over what has taken place. The insult, intended or not, is dwelled upon until it becomes this huge thing that we can’t seem to get past. That is when spite becomes a problem. We desire to go out of our way to make that other person as miserable as we are. Pause for a moment and consider who else dwells with that same attitude on an eternal basis. Yep, the adversary. That alone, should tell us who strives to get us to use spite in a negative fashion—he is the master of that philosophy.
It is a supreme challenge to shake off that negativity, and to turn things around. I’ll admit, it doesn’t always work the way we envision. Sometimes we return kindness for another kick to the head. Despite our best efforts, we can’t change another person’s agency, or freedom to act. That is when we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and smile anyway. We don’t have to stay there and share in that person’s misery. We rise up in spite of that attitude and try to make a positive difference somewhere else. Perhaps in time, hearts will soften, but it’s crucial that we go on, despite how others behave.
Sometimes it’s a physical challenge that thwarts our desire to move forward. There are days when the rheumatoid arthritis that I face makes life less than pleasant. It is a difficult thing to rise up and continue to place one foot in front of the other. I force myself onward, knowing the worst thing I can do is to sit in the corner. I was told years ago that if I gave into that temptation, I would be in a wheelchair. The type of arthritis that I deal with (Ankylosing Spondylitis) tends to fuse the hips to the lower spine. I’ve strived to remain active—and it has proved to be the key to survival. In spite of this particular obstacle, I’ve pushed myself forward and was recently told by my rheumatologist that because I’ve remained active, things are not fusing together! I’m winning this particular battle, despite odds that were stacked against me!
I’ve also dealt with being a Type 1 diabetic for 36 years. In spite of that obstacle, I’ve lived a full and mostly healthy life. It hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve had more than my share of insulin reactions, and higher-than-I-would-like blood sugar levels. Recently I found out that I have a couple of food allergies that has added to the fun. Despite all of that, I’ve done my best to continue forward, knowing that one day, it will all be worth the effort.
The list goes on and on. We all face a myriad of trials, heartaches, and disappointments. It is a supreme challenge to continue forward in spite of those things. Sorrow, despair, fear—these items are difficult to wade through. And yet, inside each one of us lives a determination to succeed despite difficulty. I suspect it’s a character trait we inherited from our heavenly parents. They knew we would need that tiny ray of hope when all around seems dark and overwhelming.
So the challenge is to keep pushing forward in spite of the obstacles that we face on a daily basis. Despite the uphill battles, we continue to climb, knowing that we’re never alone in our journey. We are watched over far more than we realize, even though each step forward is up to us. We determine the paths we take in spite of the negativity that surrounds us. And we will never regret choosing to be kind despite the opposite tendency that exists in today’s crazy world.