If they did something hurtful or disrespectful to me, I forgive them, even if I don’t understand why they did it. As I’ve said before, forgiveness is not about the other person, it’s about you. I’m still learning how to discern bad behavior from bad people but give most the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were jealous… *shrug* I don’t always publicly acknowledge the gifts that come naturally to me. That doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for them, it only means I forget that others struggle with what comes easily to me and I’ve found that can breed envy or jealousy. And jealousy is a negative and destructive emotion that eats away at any relationship. If you’re trying to grow and be and do better, you cannot make room for this type of “friend.” They are toxic.
It’s summertime so there are plenty of insects and arachnids around. And while we’re talking arachnids, specifically spiders, I’ll admit that I’m the person it takes 12 hours to displace or kill a spider if it’s too big and I’ll be going, “Ew, ew, ew, EW!” the whole time. They creep me out. I know… they’re SO much smaller than me but when I reached for my phone the other day to discover a medium-sized spider crawling on the screen (probably trying to get on Facebook), I jumped two feet straight into the air. As I write this, there’s one on the window pane. I didn’t think much about them and how their nature relates to toxic friends until I watched one. A fluttery little moth (me) stumbled into an invisible web on the side of the deck (toxic person’s sphere of doom) and started trying to free itself. The spider didn’t strike right away. It seemed to watch and wait… probably letting the moth tire itself out before approaching to see what tasty treat it’d caught. I get that they have to eat but the part where they run over, wielding fangs filled with poison and death, and violently plunge them into their victims is gruesome.
It made me think of some of the people I’ve encountered in my life. Negative people who, like spiders, craft an invisible web around them or lure you in some strategic way. Unsuspecting, you don’t even notice that you’re stuck until you try to fly off. Agh! I’m STUCK!! Git it OFF me! How’d I get here? Better yet, how do I get loose??? I’ve had several situations where I had no idea what had happened until I was able to break free and fly away. Then I could look back (from a safe distance) and assess the danger I’d been in. *grimly* Not every one makes it out. I’m being dramatic but for real tho. In my case, the web was one that chronically miserable people spin, one that involves never-ending dissatisfaction and unhappiness in their lives, complaining about every thing and every one. That’s their poison.
The Gift of Empathy
If you haven’t read what I’ve said about being an empathetic person, I will say it again: I’m an empathetic person – plenty of people are. But it makes us targets for people in pain or those with sadistic, narcissistic or manipulative personalities. I put myself in others’ shoes all the time and although I feel it’s a gift because it leads to compassion for my fellow man, it is one I had to learn to vigilantly protect. Strangers walk up to me and casually tell me about their spiritual wounds – painful, life-altering events – without provocation. My Mom, sister and possibly my brother get this too. I listen attentively because I know it’s what God wants me to do and I’m used to it now. Recently, I had to ward off some kind of admission I could see coming from a stranger in a store. She found me and was staring. I saw the look on her face and returned it with my own, as if to say, “I’m sorry. I know you are hurting but I can’t today. I have enough of my own.” She seemed to understand. I didn’t imagine this.
Even if I don’t know what it’s like to experience a specific situation first-hand, I’ll empathize and think of the impact those circumstances made on you and your loved ones. If I think you’re someone who behaves or treats people badly, I’ll still feel empathy for you because I know something happened to make you that way. I won’t even act like I’m never negative or toxic to others. I am human. What I am saying is that I make a conscious choice to genuinely encourage others whenever possible. I’ve made a commitment to myself to live authentically and not be apologetic for who I am or what I believe. When that is threatened by people who take advantage of my kindness, my trust, my empathy, my sincerity, my friendship… I may unceremoniously disengage. I don’t feel like I owe any explanation although I’ll tell you if you care enough to ask. Most people don’t. Confirmation that you didn’t care about me or the friendship in the first place.
Miserable people want other people to join them in the pit of despair. In full, “I! Me! Great!” (< thanks to my sister for a phrase that captures the essence of narcissism) mode, they want to detail everything that is wrong with everyone (excluding themselves of course) and cast blame. It’s not ME – I’m perfect but look what THEY are doing to me!? How dare I be treated this way? Misery loves company right? Absolutely. They need an audience to witness the wrongdoing. Wallowing in self-pity gets you nowhere FAST and can lead to long-term functional depression, which makes people irritable and angry. I’ll listen for a bit and try to lift you up, even encourage you to get professional help if I think it might be beneficial (I’m no counselor) but if that doesn’t work? I gots to GO. While I would go to the ends of the earth for some, I’m not going into that pit. Suck every ounce of positive energy or hope right out of me? No thanks. You’re not feeding on me. I’m telling you, it will creep on you like, like… remember the Spiderman movie where his outfit turned black?? Like that. Creeping crud. If you don’t fight it off, you could end up consumed by negativity. The thought is, if they can’t be happy, why should you? They like the darkness. If they’re emotionally manipulative, they also try to undermine your confidence (as theirs is low or nonexistent) and diminish your inner light. If they know like I know, they’d realize they can NEVER kill that light.
Despite their issues and their treatment of me, I still feel bad for them. I do. I hate that they are so unhappy in their lives that they just want to spread that negativity around as if dumping on other people will somehow lessen the load or tearing them down will raise them up. [Now you’re down here where I am! *evil laff*] It’s just sad to think about. *stares off for a few clicks and then bounces back to happy*
The flip side of this is me realizing the tendency to fault others in my unhappiness or situation, is/was ME. God saw fit to put people in my life who looked something like me to show me how I looked. I didn’t like it. Not one bit… so I sought to change it the only way I could – with His help. It’s so easy to complain and blame others for where we are. If only so and so had kept their promise, or so and so had done what they said they would do, I wouldn’t be here. Well guess what, homie? Only YOU are responsible for where you are right now. Every choice and decision has led you exactly to THIS spot and you better have the courage to accept where you are and be accountable for your part in it. Stop making excuses.
The lessons God teaches us, the way He grows us… it’s not pretty at times. It can feel like, yuuuck, because that’s exactly what He wants us to feel: aversion to behavior or people who don’t reflect His love. He says, “You know how that person is making you feel right now? That’s how YOU make others feel sometimes…” to which I cry, “Lord, I don’t like it!!! And He says,”So don’t do it.” That’s it. Just don’t treat people that way. By the way, yes, God speaks to me. We cool like that. 🙂 Seriously, He’s talking to you too. You just have to [learn how to] listen.
I’m always working on my trust issues and though it sounds harsh even to my own ears, toxic people or people who have nothing positive to add to my life can just GO. Be advised that it may be difficult to distance yourself from some people because honestly, you care about them and they may just be good people having a bad time. While I always want God to use me to help others, I know I can’t help anyone if they are not in a position to accept help. I’m not saying throw people away either – just don’t make room for them until they get help. People change and relationships change so if you check back and they are still on that bulll… um, still having issues, ask God to bless them and keep it moving. If they can’t cheer for you because they are secretly hoping you die (oh, that made me laugh hahahaha) let them walk on. Unfortunately they’ll be out there looking for other victims but we don’t have to be victims. We are survivors.
Like I said, not every one makes it out but you, my friend, can break free.