I just love this cartoon. Do you know that most of the issues that bring people to my office are rooted in problems with other people? It’s a fact. And in our increasingly self-absorbed society, it is easy to see that nice people frequently get clobbered by those who are concerned only for themselves.
My family and I just enjoyed a four-day visit from my mother. It’s always a treat for her to have the opportunity to be absorbed into our lives for a while, play with the grandkids, and have a change of scenery and pace.
As we were talking a few days ago, my mom reminded me of something that seems more true today than ever before. One of the things my mom has always said about her two sons is that they are passionate about truth and justice, even though we chose decidedly different paths in order to pursue those virtues. I am a minister and counselor; my brother is a law enforcement officer. We’re very different in many ways yet more alike than we’ll probably ever truly know.
Among those similarities is that innate calling to be fairminded, temperate, and honest. I may appear reserved, at first glance, but those who know me well can attest to a self-assured demeanor that rarely fails to clearly articulate my thoughts and feelings. Perhaps I was picked on by one too many people in junior high school. Whatever the case may be, at some point along life’s way, I decided that my voice was just as important as that of the next person. I simply cannot stand to see people mistreated by others.
I have learned in life that nice guys do not always have to finish last. Sometimes though, nice guys and girls (or men and women, if that makes you feel better) have trouble finding their voice and standing up for themselves.
Throughout the course of my ministry, I have frequently found myself serving in the role of advocate, looking out for the rights and interests of others. It’s not something I necessarily go out looking to do . . . it just seems to find me . . . or to fit me. It is a large part of who I am and how God has shaped me, and I celebrate His goodness each time I use my shape.
Perhaps God has gifted you to be an advocate for others as well. I must warn you though, it can be a very messy role. Yet, God will never call you to do anything that He does not equip you to accomplish in His power.
While our own sin must not be negated, the reality in life is that many of the problems we suffer are due to the sin and selfishness of other people. These people can come in a variety of forms, from “friend” to family member to co-worker or boss. One word, one ugly look, or one day of the silent treatment can be just another tool to exert power over others, reducing them to little more than pawns in the game of life.
Unfortunately, most of these control freaks roam freely about our society, rarely doing anything to cross legal boundaries. Instead, they just push their own agendas and their own ways right down the throats of others, like slithering snakes in search of easy prey.
Perhaps you think it’s pointless to try and stop these people. After all, they’re probably never going to change. That may be true, but it only takes one person doing the right thing to make a tremendous difference in the lives of many others. And here’s a little tidbit of information you can take to the bank: People can only have control over you if you allow them to. Think about it. Even in a conversation, do you realize that it’s the listener, not the speaker, who controls the process?
God may sometimes instruct you to turn the other cheek, but He does not typically call people to be doormats or human punching bags — verbally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Maybe there is someone in your life who needs an advocate . . . a helper . . . a friend. How might you be used to help him or her?
Maybe you’re that person who has lost your voice. Maybe you’re a person who has allowed others to hurt or abuse you in ways that even those closest to you can’t see. Make today the day you draw a line in the sand and begin treating yourself with the respect you deserve as a human being.
Don’t let jerks get the best of you! Here are some ways to help with that:
1. Pray for the one who offends you — and for yourself, that you’ll know how and when to handle the situation. Never underestimate the power of prayer — especially where other people are concerned. Failure to pray can undermine even the most well-intentioned efforts.
2. Acknowledge things you do that allow others to mistreat or abuse you. Sometimes just taking the time to verbally confront the offender is enough to alter their pattern of behavior — or at least get them to move on to a less-resistant target.
3. Set healthy boundaries to protect yourself and your family from toxic and controlling people. You may benefit from talking with a counselor about how to help this process along.
4. Learn and practice assertiveness skills. Some people are just too nice. They give everyone the benefit of the doubt and never confront bad behavior. This is another area in which a counselor or minister can likely help.
Issues with toxic people constitute a vast amount of emotional time and energy. As you go through your day today, I hope you will find ways to stand up for what’s right — for others and yourself. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.
I’m convinced that even though jerks don’t always get justice on our time-table, they do ultimately receive justice. At least that helps me feel better about it all. 🙂