Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Let No Man Pull You Low Enough To Hate Them"

Have you ever had a person in your life who is consistently negative? Who makes you feel less about yourself? Who pushes you down emotionally, over and over again?

Recently, there have been a few people in my life like this. For years I allowed them to make me feel less like...well, less like me.

Belittled. "Do you still live at home? At 21 years old?" 

Hurt. "Are you still dating What's His Name? Or did that ship sail already?"

Inferior. "You're only a junior in undergraduate school? Hm, I'm already working two jobs and living on my own."

Their insensitive comments would leave a visible mark. Their gossip would damage my relationships with others. Their unhealthy competition would cause me stress and nervousness.

And not only have these people hurt me, they have hurt my family as well. Their actions consist of name calling, cussing, incredulous accusations, and purposely disrespecting reputations. My first reaction to people who hurt my family are to take out my hoop earrings and say, "Awh heck no!" while beating them with my purse like a fiery old lady would. Other times, when people hurt my family I feel like Liam Nissen…

(Note: I would not really kill someone…***But if you hurt any of my family member's feelings, I instantly really, really, really, dislike you.)

Yet, I've never responded with ferocity or anger. Why? Because when I have, I'm suddenly the bully. In this day and age, when people push you to your limits and you finally fight back, YOU become the mean one! How backwards is that?

As a Christian, it is difficult to consistently endure this type of relationship and keep a smile on your face. We are conditioned to "forgive and forget". We are encouraged to feel sorry for the other person. We are told to make up for the holes in the relationship by 'killing them with kindness', walk a mile in their shoes, or pray for them.

Well, there comes a time when you need to stop crossing oceans for someone who wouldn't even jump a puddle for you.

In Matthew, Peter asks Jesus about the limitations of forgiveness.

"Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."

Now, it is assumed that Jesus did not literally mean seventy times seven. While 490 seems like a lot, it seems troublesome to keep a record of how many times you have forgiven someone.

If I were to say to my little sister, "Okay Emily, this is the 331st time I have forgiven you. Be careful! You're getting up there! I can only forgive you 490 times!"

That would be silly.

It is more likely that Jesus was trying to make a point about forgiveness: forgive no matter how many times you have previously forgiven. 

According to Google, forgiveness is defined as follows:

for·give (fərˈɡiv/) : verb
  1. ~stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake

    ~cancel a debt.

Forgiving and forgetting seems like an impossible task. It is not always easy to forget painful memories. Therefore, I believe we need to accompany forgiveness with life changes.

Should I continue to let these people treat me badly? Should I allow them to hurt my feelings over and over? Is it really okay that I let them disrespect my family time and time again? (NO! It is NOT!)

If I know from repeated past experience that Person A hurts my feelings every time I encounter them, I should, naturally, limit my encounters with them.

Do I need to cuss them out? Declare in a Facebook status that I am "so done" with them? Openly tell Person A that I am completely eradicating them from my life?

No, because that is not a graceful way to handle that situation. I need to forgive them and MOVE ON.

Of course, we should want to be the best Christian example we can be. Therefore, cutting someone out of your life does not display the "best" Chrsitian attitude. However, it is okay to LIMIT a person's presence in your life.

I can take charge of how they affect me. 
I can chose when, where, and how this person influences my life. 
I can learn to "expect their crap, but to never accept it."

Forgiveness is hard, but it is right.

 "Forgiveness doesn't excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart."

I think there are three major steps in learning how to forgive with a Christian heart:

1. The first is to embody a positive attitude toward those who offend you and avoid negative attitudes toward them. (James 1:2-4)
   -Allowing negative attitudes to take control is unhealthy and gives the offender power in your life.

2. The second is to view the person who hurt you as an instrument in your life from God's plan. (Genesis 45:5)
   -Even if it is impossible to comprehend why this hurtful person is in your life, learn from it and acknowledge that God is always in control. Don't pity the person, but pray for them. 

3.  And lastly, one needs to recognize that maintaining hurt feelings is a form of getting back at your offender, because it causes you to treat them poorly. (Romans 12:17-20)
 -Harboring anger and withholding forgiveness can cause you to become like the offender in regards to similar attitudes. When you forgive, you are obeying God's commands for your life and allowing peace to bloom. 

In conclusion, I don't think Jesus will be upset with me for limiting my interactions with people who hurt me. (And who knows, I can be completely wrong! I'm not trying to put words in Jesus' mouth. Maybe this isn't the right thing to do!) However, I do know that it is unhealthy to surround myself with people who emotionally damage me or my family. If you keep going backwards with people who hurt you time and time again, you will remain stuck. There is no joy in being confused and unhappy.

As a Christian, I am choosing to forgive the people who hurt me. And as a Christian, I am choosing to wisely limit how and when I let them into my life. 

The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is to just love and be loved in return. So, I'm going to love my offenders by forgiving them and stepping away from them. 

Most importantly, I'm going to love my family and myself by moving on with the beautiful, hand-crafted story God has planned for me.