The media frenzy that surrounded the offensive comments that led to the firing of radio broadcasting icon Don Imus in 2007 brought many questions that have lingered unanswered for years to the forefront.  One of the more important ones was what, if anything, should be done about the vulgar lyrics of rap and hip-hop music.   Who should take the blame for the popular songs that seem to make it a point to degrade women and promote violence?  15 years later, these questions remain as shown with the divided responses to Megan Thee Stallion and her recent comments about her volatile relationship with Tory Lanez

One question that didn’t get as much notice but was equally as important was the response of the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team.  The question?     Is your perception my reality?    Maybe more specifically: am I going to let your perception become my reality? When you are staring at the perception of others in your face and it has the potential to change your reality, the question may be simple, but the answer is more complicated.

Until the young ladies spoke during their press conference, most of the public had no idea who Imus was talking about.  There was a glimpse of their response to the question during their news conference in which they eloquently articulated their feelings concerning the insult.  Their answer to this question was no.

For some, it was easier to look at the one concerning Rutgers and minimize it by saying that people are always going to talk about you.  Some even go so far as to say that they talked about Jesus and pointedly ask are you better than him where people can’t talk about you.    It’s kind of like the schoolyard rhyme of “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”   Even though I have said those words as a protection from the cruel insults that are sometimes hurled my way, the truth is words do hurt.    But I think that part of that hurt comes from the struggle to not allow those words to become your reality.

Proverbs 2:12 reminds us that “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse.” Perverse words can distort our realities.   Perception is nothing more than a mental image of something.  When that mental image becomes illustrated through words, it becomes real, in a sense, but it doesn’t necessarily become my reality.   What’s reality is how you respond to the words.

I’ll admit that in recent months, I have had my own challenges with others’ perceptions and my reality.   Do I return insult and innuendo with insult and innuendo?  Or do I “pray” hoping for God to “get them” for their harsh words.  Or do I simply give the burden to God…and receive the grace to forgive the harsh words in return?  What I’m learning that my reality is more how I choose to respond to those words…not the words themselves.

Shewanda Riley is a Dallas-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving From Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.