I was just telling my mom this morning that I have been learning so much this year. I have grown. It hasn’t been what a lot of Christians talk about in Bible studies or retreats. It isn’t the sweet sappy slogans that post on Facebook. God has been teaching me a lot about dealing with difficult people. I have already learned to turn the other cheek, and as much as depends on me, live at peace with all people.
Actually, I didn’t have to learn it so much as it was my default.
I hate conflict. I hate confrontation. I carry a white flag everywhere I go. You can cut in front of me in line, and I will smile and say excuse me for being in your way. People can boss me around. I will just try to be nice. Maybe that will fix the problems in our relationship?
If not . . .
I will try harder.
I will people please.
I will lie down all my rights.
It is easier that way.
I have done this consistently in an effort to be loved and accepted by family in-law. And yet, there are some people that you can’t change, no matter how nice you are. And when they see you roll over like a submissive hound and show your belly, they will kick you even more.
The Lord has shown me that what I have been doing not only isn’t working, it isn’t really even godly. It is cowardly.
So this year, we had a falling out in our family. I wrote about it. And God really began to show me so many things through that experience. He showed me that it wasn’t my fault that these people were they way they were. I didn’t do anything to cause it. I had been respectful and forgiving, and compliant and I had tried over and over to make peace and be kind. But it would never be enough.
In order to maintain the relationship I would have to lay down all personal boundaries and allow them to treat me even worse. Even to the point of allowing abuse, and acting like nothing was wrong.
In my first attempt at self defense. My first time I stood up and said no, that I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore– they cut me off. I was called a bad Christian. And I was told that they would never forgive me for being so disrespectful. I was made into the villain, and they were obviously the victims. The whole family was turned against me. And they are waiting for me to come crawling back, apologize for not going with the flow, and start telling them how wonderful they are again (then maybe they might forgive me, but it will take time, and they might not ever get over it).
I didn’t know what to do, I went to the Lord. And He gave me so much wisdom from His Word. He told me that I couldn’t fix it. He gave me the story of Uzzah who, when the ark was falling off the oxcart reached out his hand to prevent it all from crashing down. The Lord told me that if I reach out and try to fix this, that I would be the one destroyed. He told me that He has the power to not let this crash down, but He is allowing it. He protected me.
So I have been waiting.
And not just sitting here. I have been studying. Listening to Bible studies about relational difficulties, reading books about boundaries, and dealing with controlling people, I have spent hours dissecting Bible stories and verses about how to do the right thing when it comes to these situations.
Isn’t if crazy though, how the church can be so silent on dysfunctional families?
How you can go to church every Sunday, and just be told to just be a people pleaser.
As if Christian=nice
As if Jesus never had problems with people?
As if Jesus never stood up to people, and told them no.
It is okay to say no.
It is okay to not be bullied and controlled by people.
I just never hear that at my church.
Thank God, I read the Bible on my own, at home.
I can remember one time, a few years ago when we were invited to a family gathering and an abusive member of our family was going to attend. We had a no contact rule with this family member, but our family invited him anyway and then expected us to compromise our rule and come. “Nothing will happen! We are at a restaurant!” I was told the choice to go was up to me, and I was also told how very important it was that we were going.
I freaked out.
That is what happens when you feel forced into situations that scare you. Can I really tell them no–we won’t go spend time with an abusive family member???
I opened my Bible, begging God to show me what to do.
My Bible opened to John 7. It was a section of Scripture where Jesus was pressured by his family to go to a feast. But he said no. He did not allow their pressure and intimidation to control his choices.
Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. (John 7)
When I read that, I literally started jumping on my bed. How does that happen? How do you open the Bible and find an obscure verse that just specifically lets you off the hook like that?! I was blown away. The Bible truly is living. The Bible is amazing. God is amazing.
I think the thing that we forget is that God does not want the wicked to hurt the weak and oppressed. He is their defender.
The wonderful thing too, is to be able to recognize manipulation in other people (not just my family in-law). I am so thankful for this knowledge. Because there are situations that occur now, where I can see that this person is clearly trying to make me feel bad so they can get their way. Before, I would have felt bad for them, and tried to make them happy. Now I realize that I have a choice. I don’t have to say yes to everything. I don’t have to feel bad. I have the responsibility to make my own choices.
Last week I posted a blog article on “The Son of God” movie. Now, my blog doesn’t get too much traffic. I started writing this as a simple outlet. I simple way for me to express the things that the Lord was showing me and the issues that are important to me. I am passionate, and I need to get it out.
Well, for some reason one of my blog posts went viral. I then had people from all walks of life wanting to say their peace. For the most part, it was wonderful. I have had the sweetest fellowship, reading the profound things that come out of the mouths of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am so thankful that people took the time to leave comments. What a blessing!!!
Then there were a couple people that cussed me out or told me I was demon possessed.
There were also people who just wanted to argue. Now, I am all for people who don’t agree with me; I am able to have a kind and respectable discussion with decent people who disagree with me. I posted many comments from people who wanted to discuss their opinions and we were able to talk about it. I can take correction, I can look back and evaluate my tone, and I can disagree with people in a respectful way, etc.
But there were a few other people that were a bit more aggressive. I noticed this one person began to leave over 5 comments an hour. I woke up one night and I saw that not only had he left comments all day long, but he was leaving comments all night long too. It was kinda creepy. Doesn’t this person sleep? Doesn’t he have other interests? Why does he care so much about what I wrote? He tried to leave over 60 comments. I posted 6 of them, but then I just didn’t have enough time to go round and round with him.
So then, he started to try to manipulate me into letting him just argue and say all kinds of mean things to other people on the blog. He started saying that I only post comments that agree with my opinion (which isn’t true). And I am hiding his comments. He tried to make me feel ashamed and guilty for not posting his point of view (when I already had). He has called me a pharisee, a whitewashed sepulcher, a hysterical angry pessimistic false prophet.
A year ago, it would have really bothered me. I would have been hurt, offended, apologetic, and compliant. But now, I can see what is going on. This person is just trying to make me feel bad so he can have some influence over what is going on on my blog. Instead of just walking away, and allowing me to have a different opinion than he does. But the thing is, this is MY blog. It is okay for me not to publish every comment!!! I don’t owe him an excuse, for not publishing his 60+ disparaging comments. I don’t feel bad at all.
Today, I was reading an article on Narcissists (my family in-law happens function a lot in this type of behavior). I was learning a lot. For those of you who don’t know what a narcissist is, it isn’t just someone who thinks they are the bees knees. It is a bully. A controlling, manipulative, mean person. They lie and twist the facts. Hurt you and then play the victim. They make you crazy.
Anyways, I was reading through this writers blog, and I came to an interesting post. It had to do with her policy on comments. Think about it, a woman who writes a blog about narcissism and how to escape the control, guilt and manipulation of people–having to deal with manipulation in her comments section! The irony! Well, what she said made me smile so big! It was rather bold, but it is funny because she calls it what it is. She said:
I just want those of you who are offended by my frankness to let you know something about me. Writing to me in the comments that you are no longer going to comment on my blog is not perceived by me as a threat nor a punishment. This blog is not going to deteriorate in quality just because you no longer deign to grace it with your comments. Neither are you going to make me feel like a bad person because you’re offended. I’m not going to suddenly throw my arms up and give in just to make sure no one out there thinks less of me.
Apparently, it isn’t evident to some that I am impervious to such manipulations via guilt and shame. All you will do is make me think less of you for trying to punish me for simply holding a contrary opinion to your own.
Ah, yes, I can hear the denials that the intent is to punish me, but I would call such denials lies.
Because if you weren’t trying to punish me then you’d simply shut up with not another word said. You would not send in ONE LAST COMMENT to make sure I KNOW that your silence is filled with your opprobrium. This method has been used on me frequently enough over the years that it simply makes me roll my eyes. It is not my problem if you are so easy to offend. Especially since I am obviously not trying to offend.
I was an owner of a ladies-only religious group for three years. This is where I was first confronted by this method of attempting to control me and what I say. I am pretty sure it has only been women who have tried this method of control on me. IT WON’T WORK. It has never worked. You’re not so important that it’ll suddenly start working because you’re doing it.
Here’s the deal with me. I am not here doing what I do because I need attention or praise. I’m neither elated by your praise nor dejected by your censure. This is not a work of ego. I don’t need other people’s approval for the opinions I hold, nor do I relinquish my opinions simply because someone doesn’t like them. Think about it. I have successfully gone “no contact” with my parents for years now. My sister too. Do you really think that your disapproval of me means anything??
So, if you plan to fire off that last comment telling me you won’t be commenting anymore please take in the above. You haven’t unsettled me. You haven’t changed my mind. I don’t feel like I’m “bad” because your knickers are in a twist. I think less of you, not myself, for your petty little attempt to control and/or manipulate and/or punish me. If you wanna dress me down then have the courage to send that message in an email where you can run the risk of having to hear back from me. Putting in a comment you feel pretty sure that I won’t put through means you want the last word with out giving me any opportunity to discuss the matter with you privately. This is another indication that you’re trying to punish me and not behave like an adult with another adult.
Just so’s ya’ll know the score. I think I’ll be tacking this onto my comment policy for future reference since this scenario pops up like a perennial weed. (Anna Valerius)
When I read that, did I get offended? No, I realize that I was on this woman’s blog and she has some boundaries. You know what? I respect her ability to articulate her boundaries. I appreciate the way she delineates between a commenter having a different opinion, and a commenter trying to manipulate and intimidate the blog owner into rolling over like a submissive dog.
Well you would think that her tone and demeanor would turn away people from reading her blog or hearing her heart. But to me it was the opposite. I realized that she is a strong and smart individual, who isn’t going to compromise her beliefs or be wishy washy with people who visit her page. If I disagree with some things she says, I don’t feel like I must take over her blog, via the comments section and right all the wrongs in the universe!
Anyways, like I said the Lord is teaching me to wait on Him. To not allow people the power to hurt my or my children with their sinful natures. There are consequences when we hurt people. One of those consequences is broken relationships. Sometimes people need to learn. I am not doing my family any favors by getting in the way of them learning this lesson.
When we sin against the Lord, we also damage our relationship with Him, and we don’t have the same intimate fellowship we once had. Consequences and the loss of fellowship are Biblical.
All the other stuff, the comments on my blog post, the pressures from people to do this or that–small potatoes. But I am still happy that God is giving me clear vision.
It frees me up to focus on the things He has placed before me. The fear of man is a snare and a curse. But the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
I don’t want to sit on the merry-go-round of crazy. I don’t want to keep going around and around in an endless cycle of family dysfunction. There needs to be real repentance. I can’t let this stuff keep hurting our family (our children).
I am choosing freedom in Christ.
But the freedom isn’t from not having conflict in my life anymore.
Conflict will still come into my life.
But there is a deep freedom in being able to see controlling behavior for what it is, and make a choice.
Freedom of knowing that Jesus didn’t ask me to fix dysfunction.
He won’t even do that, until the people are ready and willing.
I am grown.
I am a grown woman.
I don’t want to act like a scared little girl anymore–giving into controlling and mean people, and subjecting my children to further dysfunction.
What would be godly about that?