Dealing With The Pain of Being Ignored

Has this situation ever happened to you? Have people ever avoided talking with you, when they should? What am I talking about?  If you have an obvious disability, then you can probably guess it.

I am talking about the tendency of some people, to avoid an uncomfortable situation or make an assumption based on appearance. In some ways, I can sympathize with the two groups; as I’ve had my own encounters in these areas.

My goal is not to point fingers and humiliate people in a public arena. Such tactics may garner high site traffics; however, they do not yield any lasting fruits worth mentioning. My goal is to offer some helpful solutions for dealing with such situation.

This article should be of value to people, who are disabled and people, who do not have a disability. I will encourage you to take the time and read it. Shall we start with an illustration?

Years ago, I needed to get some serious dental work done and it needed to be at a low cost. As I am on a fixed income, there were limited options. My friends and I heard about the University of Medicine & Dentistry and we decided to take a trip to Newark.  Liz Alvarez offered to take me; as I can’t drive.

I am going to start with this simple statement. The staff were very friendly and professional in dealing with my friend and me. Though they did make one minor goof. I will explain. During the intake interview, a question or something came up. The interviewer did the right thing and called a staff.

It should be noted that Liz was only eleven years older than I am. However, you wouldn’t have guessed it by my appearance. As for Liz, she was a sweet, wonderful lady, who is not my mother. Guess what the staff thought?

For some strange reason, he thought Liz was my mother. For some strange reason, he directed his conversation to Liz; It made for an awkward situation. My real mother would be very happy to see how Liz deal with this guy.

I smiled when Liz said something like, “He is standing right here and he’s not retarded. Barry is not going to bite you.” It turns out the guy thought I was her son and he used it, as an excuse to avoid talking with me.

Yes, it really did happen.  Sadly, it is not the only time. For people with disabilities, this scenario is very common. It’s not just embarrassing; it’s actually hurtful. I am thankful for the friends and family, who did speak up.

What should I, if I don’t have any such help? A friend once suggested that I use a combination of wisecracks and tact. In time, I would come to understand the wisdom of her point. She is right; a good zinger and tact can be a great way to deal with ignorance.

What prompted this pearl of wisdom? I told of a very frustrating experience with a supervisor at Goodwill Industries. For some strange reason, the man made the callous statement that deaf people were stupid. I was angry; however, I didn’t know how to deal with it.

What did she suggest? She says, “You could have turned the table on the guy.” She gives the following illustration. Oh really? Do you know that I graduated from Stockton State College, with a major in Political Science? At the same time, I’d be gently touching my hearing aid mold.

You see, I am hard of hearing; though it is not always obvious. The woman’s suggestion would have drawn his attention to the aid and exposed his foolish statement.  It would have also given him, an opportunity to rethink his comment.

An angry response to the man’s error would help no one. Yet, a gentle answer and sweetness of words can open doors; whereas an open rebuke will close such doors. Do you recall my earlier story?

Liz and I dealt with the situation with a mix of humor and gentleness. It opened a door of opportunity for the poor staff to say, “Oops. I am sorry about that.” It would not have occurred, if we were mean spirited or angry.

It is worth noticing that I didn’t take offense at the staff person. By this time, I had already learned to relax. People are going to make mistakes and we’ll sometimes put our foot in our mouth.  Am I right?

For this reason, it helps to learn the art of grace. What do I mean? Grace means unmerited favor. You are getting something that you did not earn or deserve. For humans, it is not an easy thing to do. For we have a natural desire to retaliate when hurt.

There is one, who can help and it is God, the Father. He knows all extending grace. Have you not heard? For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. [Eph 2:8-9]

If you already know and believe in Jesus, then the above definitely applies. It’s not too late to get into the Kingdom of God. Jesus is capable of teaching you, the art of extending grace to others.

If it was easy, then you would not have to ask Jesus or anyone else. Here is another not so easily done tip. It’s called “Walking in forgiveness”. The floor supervisor did deserve a foot in the rear. He was not being nice.

According to Jesus, I am to forgive this individual and let the Father deal with the person. I can assure you that God, the Father does know how to take care of things. In this case, it was a simple matter. For others, it may be a lot harder. Don’t be afraid to ask Jesus for help.

In some cases, it helps to talk with the person. It may surprise you to learn the person did not intend harm. More often than not, it is usually the case. You can put away the baseball bat. Like the good professor, some people simply need a little nudge in the right direction.

How can I tell? If your heart is filled with bitterness and anger, then it would be very difficult to see the difference. For this reason, I’d encourage you to let go. Such things can never help you; it will only destroy you.

Ask Jesus to come heal you and fill your heart with love, gentleness and peace.

Barry Brindisi

Author of "You Are Not A Lesser Human".