More than “just”


A couple of weeks ago, I received an email in which I was called a gross, disgusting name. I deleted the email almost immediately, but something like that doesn’t delete from your mind very quickly. Or ever, I expect.

It was awful because I ceased to feel like a person in that moment, instead I was just a body part. I wasn’t someone who had feelings that could be hurt by name-calling, I was a symbol of something that had hurt this person in the past and I became an easy target for that anger.

On reflection, I can recognize this. I can see that this person also had scars. They had been wounded and they were responding out of that painful emotion.

But that day I just felt terrible, and when I told my husband about it, I said, “Some people are just assholes.”

With that statement, I did the exact same thing that they did to me.

I spoke out of anger and hurt and reduced them to an unflattering body part. I didn’t think about the whole of them, I just looked at one action and judged them as bad. Unworthy of my respect. Less than. “Just.”

I hate when I see any of my friends stuck receiving piles of negative feedback, particularly when I believe that it is undeserved. It’s easy to rush to their defense and suggest that the people who are pushing back are “just haters” or “just d-bags” or “just jerks” or “just bullies.”

There may be a small element of truth in that. Some of the behavior is bad. It is hurtful and hateful and bullying. Sometimes it comes from people whose words have a lot of clout. It comes from influential ministers in the church. It comes from bloggers with large platforms. It comes from people who should know better.

Often times it comes at the expense of someone who is not in a position of power or privilege. The push-back can be against someone who has a minority status or who is being a voice with those who are in an oppressed group. Someone who is speaking for people who have limited ability to speak for themselves. People step up to defend those who are dehumanized and end up on the receiving end of that same behavior.

We are not obligated to sit idly by when someone treats others as less that human. It is absolutely appropriate to address hurtful behavior. It’s okay to express pain when someone’s behavior affects you. Acknowledging our wounds is one of the first ways that we can begin to heal from them. We don’t have to be friends with people who habitually hurt others or who regularly engage in destructive behavior.

But when I look at those who do the dehumanizing and I turn and do the same thing right back to them, I am not making things better for those who are marginalized or for me. Creating a system where more people become a “just” reinforces the idea that people aren’t holistic beings.

I am not “just” the name that I was called. The person who wrote that is not “just” the name that I called them in return. When I remember that something as simple as the Golden Rule applies to people who I like as well as people who I don’t like as much, I help break the cycle of dehumanizing behavior.

I help all of us become more than “just.”

  • Vicki

    So true. Thanks Alise.

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    You are right.
    Though most of us respond this way when offended or insulted, we should dehumanize each other. Just as they hurt us, there is hurt in them already and we don’t make the world better by belittling them even if they did it to us first.
    I think that as we develop more regard for ourselves and others, we can stop returning evil for evil–or at least reduce it. You said it well. Thank you.

    • Alise Wright

      Yup. I’m usually pretty good at not responding in kind. But I have a tendency to use demeaning language to ‘comfort’ people who have been slighted. Which isn’t really much of a comfort, when I think about it.

      So I’m going to try to do better.

  • pastordt

    Well said, friend. But I’m so sorry that someone’s ugliness to you prompted it. Thank you for offering grace in this post.

  • Gordon Duffy

    You sometimes say things I think are wrong or mistaken, but you tend to say them with grace, tact and thought.

    • Alise Wright

      Thank you, Gordon. I certainly try!

  • Alise Wright

    Yeah, when I think about it at all, I can remember. But in the heat of the moment? Or when one of my friends is hurt? Not so much. So this is definitely me preaching to myself!

  • Alise Wright

    Yeah, it wasn’t a regular reader, so I eventually did “get over it.” But when it happened, it kind of knocked the wind out of me for a minute. And my first thoughts when I got my breath back were…not charitable.

  • Tara M. Owens

    Beautiful and true. It’s so hard to sit with the pain and not lash out from within it.

  • Amber-Lee

    Something I’ve been taught in regard to working with poor behavior is saying “Your behavior is x” It really limits what you can say, and it calls out the behavior specifically, not the being of the person.

  • michael j. kimpan

    this. is. so. good.

  • Addie Zierman

    So sorry this happened. Appreciate your self-awareness as you discuss this delicate issue. Love.

  • Elizabeth Chapin

    I appreciate your honesty here! The darkness runs deep in me too. One strategy I use when I get hurt is to say the catch phrase, “hurt people hurt people.” It reminds me that I am not the only one hurting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always stop me from thinking or saying those unmentionable things, but usually it eventually reminds me to acknowledge my pain, seek healing, confess my own rage and ask God to remove that spot of darkness from my heart so I can learn to love again. It’s in seeking healing in the small things (a reader calling me names) that prepare me for dealing with the bigger things (a close friend writing a long email with lots of name calling and ending the friendship). If hurt people hurt people, then I need to practice spiritual disciplines that promote healing in me so I can be a cooperative friend of Jesus in stopping the verbal violence. Thanks so much for your post. I really appreciate you sharing and am so sorry you were hurt.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage

      “Hurt people hurt people.” Thanks!
      Remembering this is so helpful in responding to people to hurt. When we realize that people who hurt us are broken people too, we see things with new perspective. It also strenghtens us to not hurt people ourselves, even though we are hurting.

      • Elizabeth Chapin

        I’ve also heard that healed people heal people. We are all in process and I think that to the degree we seek and find healing we will be able to offer that healing to others. I doubt I will be fully healed until God’s kingdom is fully present here on earth as in heaven, but by receiving what healing God offers in the here and now I am able to offer a foretaste of that kingdom. The phrase is a little awkward to say that people who are in the process of healing, heal people, so we just shorten it and imagine our complete healing when all our tears will be wiped away.

        • jesuswithoutbaggage

          Elizabeth, I like what you are saying a lot!

  • Christie@ Random Reflectionz


    I tried to leave a comment yesterday but I had trouble posting it. In any event, I am sorry that you had to deal with this and can totally relate. I had someone leave a really hurtful comment to my latest Huffington Post article and it bothered me for days. Honestly, it is still bothering me and it’s kind of shaken my confidence. I think that one of the negative side effects to the technological advancements is that it allows people to hide behind their computer screens without much thought to the impact that their words will have. And yes, it dehumanizes.

    As for using the word “just,” I hear it all the time in the context of “just a stay-at-home mom” and does tend to otherize and dehumanize. It reduces people to labels and fails to acknowledge the gray complexities involved with all of us.

    Kudos to you for rising above. I need to take a lesson from you :-)

    Christie (

  • Shannon M. Howell

    Only have a sec, but thought I’d share a story…

    The body parts were having an argument about which was most important.
    “I am,” said the brain, “I do the high level thinking.”
    “No, it’s me,” said the heart. “When I stop, the body is declared dead.”
    “I perform over 2 dozen vital functions!” said the liver.
    On and on it went, around and around. During all this, the ass stayed quiet. It clammed up and didn’t move. Many hours of bickering later, the body noticed, and all the organs decided the ass won.

  • Miles O’Neal

    We’re all made in God’s image. That’s something we’ve generally lost sight of. Three of the best, and most important prayers I ever prayed were to see God clearly, to see myself as he sees me, and to see others as he sees them. Seriously life changing.

    I also ran into some people who talked about living unoffendably. As I wrestled with that idea, it hit me that no one can offend, humiliate, or emotionally hurt me without my cooperation. I thought I had dealt with my past, but came to see how much it still influenced me in how reacted in the present. I went on a jihad against old wounds. I forgave everything and everyone I could find, and then applied blanket forgiveness to everything and everyone I couldn’t recall. It’s a process. It takes time, But it’s soooo freeing.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage

      This is a great insight and decision: to be at peace with everyone–from your side! No grudges; no ill-will.
      I have attempted to do so for the last several years and it works pretty well. Sometimes I have to remind myself, though.

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  • John

    Well said, I have found that these type of things happen a lot more especially as you gain a larger audience. Stay strong and keep bringing glory to God :).