Folks, it’s amazing I’m alive. I stepped on a landmine recently.
Yep, I sure did. I asked someone I know if they had spoken to a mutual acquaintance lately and was harshly accused of trying to pick a fight. After some ranting and admonitions about “minding my own business” they revealed that no, they hadn’t spoken to the person.
Well, pardon me.
How many times has that happened to you? You know what I mean. A memory trigger brings something to mind so you ask about it, only to be criticized for asking, or accused of being nosy, or being told to mind your own business. You didn’t realize that you were drifting into sacred territory – after all, it hadn’t been a sensitive issue before – but something changed and you get cut down for not knowing what you haven’t been told.
I know it does hurt. It’s downright rude and offensive. But in such situations, I think it’s important that we keep a valuable truth in mind: the harsh reactions are a protective mechanism. These reactions are as good as
renting a digital billboard saying “I have issues with this!” They think a harsh reaction will teach you to back off. They don’t realize that may work, but they’re also exposing a chink in their armor. I compare these attacks where there’s no threat to an allergic reaction: An innocent substance gets in your system but for some reason your body perceives it as a threat, so it reacts.
The truth is that we all have emotional issues that we hold close in order to protect ourselves. None of us are really an "open book" no matter how forthright and honest we are or strive to be. We all have things we keep in our innermost circle and don't invite others in. That's fine. There are certain things we should keep private. The problem is that some people stretch that inner circle to hold in more than others, oftentimes things that others don't have a problem sharing and even seek help and support in handling. How much we hold in is up to us, but we need to kill the correlation between the one thing that pricks us and the whole world being out to get us. Emotionally charged issues tend to cloud our judgement and scew our perspective to a point where we believe it really is all about us - and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most of the people in this world don't even know us, and a great number who do know us don't have an emotional investment in us. For all our trials and tribulations, we personally interact with a limited number of people at a time and believe it or not, most of them mean us no harm. Some (gasp!) might actually want to help and support us, and our knee jerk reactions to scare people away from sacred territory may scare them away. When emotions run high, it would behoove us to realize that, in the words of the late, great C.S. Lewis, "sometimes an apple is just an apple." Believe it or not, there aren't double meanings or ulterior motives to everything under the sun.
I think the best thing to do in these cases is to back off. We all tend to cut others off from very emotionally sensitive issues and if a person chooses to do that then it’s disrespectful to try to bully your way in. It’s a shame, especially when you want to help and support them. But if they choose to shut others out and suffer alone, well, it’s best to respect their wishes and let them. After all, you can’t force people to open up, seek help or do the right thing. Sometimes the best you can do is back off and continue with the rest of your life.
And as for the person I unintentionally angered, well, I am sorry. I see the “keep out” sign now and believe
me, I certainly will. I’ll give you the space you desire, but realize the ball's in your court. It’s your responsibility to let me know when or if the landmine is diffused.
That’s all for today. I hope you enjoy the video inspiration to go along with this entry below. Bye!
There's no use denying it - we all have a dark side. And we know just when it's time to unleash it. It's those times when life kicks you when you're down. When you try and try to do it right, and just stay locked in place or worse, you're passed by those doing wrong. When you just can't seem to get ahead no matter how hard you try. When you can't find a break and your patience is down to it's last shred. It's when the PITA's in life are beyond dealing with in a civilized manner and, as Dad says, it's time to put on the boots and start kicking some butt.
PITA's, by the way, are a handy acronym we've come up with at work. It stands for "Pain In The A**"
And "butt" is absolutely not the word in your vocabulary at these times, but I am trying to keep it PG-13 rated, even if I'm approaching this issue from an angle that no pastor, psychologist, therapist, or other any other type of spiritual leader or mental health professional would ever endorse. But, as I often say, reality isn't pretty and sometimes, it's downright obscene. The dirty truth I'm dealing with in this entry is that we all have a dark side, and life does have a way of bringing it out. I think it's best to acknowledge it. In fact, I think the key to making your way through the PITA's of life is to understand your dark side and know how to deal with it.
Yes, we know that there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. We know we should be patient and knowing that doing what's right will always win in the long run. But sometimes, you have to get aggresive, and this is where that elusive "dark side" comes in. If you are being taken for granted, walked all over, mistreated, used, or abused then you've come to that time to get wicked and it's absolutely right to step out and be aggresive. This can be a very hard thing, especially for Christians, because people assume that we're supposed to be meek and mild and take whatever life and the world throws at us. People expect us to stay quiet because they assume it's sinful to get angry, but the truth is that this is a handy excuse for them to use to justify treating us badly. They don't remember that Jesus turned over moneychangers tables outside the temple (I think that's awesome, by the way.) They say "oh, the Bible says 'in your anger, do not sin,' but misinterpret that to mean it's a sin to be angry (even though it clearly says not to sin in anger, which removes anger as justification for sin and doesn't make anger the sin). They stereotype us as lambs and forget there are lions in the kingdom too. So when they run across somebody like me, they're shocked when I say "fine you wanna play, let's play" and I turn into a holy terror.
Yes, I said it. I can be a holy terror when I'm angry. The problem is not a matter of retaliation. It's actually an issue of me being mischievous. I'm a writer, and a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology too so I do strategize how I deal with PITA's. For example, did you know that when most people get ticked off at you, they treat you in ways that irritate the hell out of them? A person that loves to be the center of attention will stop speaking to you and cut you off. A person that hates confrontation will be passive aggresive and will stab you in the back. A person that's a prideful bigshot will cause a scene or confront you. But I don't do that. I watch people to find what annoys them most and then I do it. I think it's part of a mischievous streak, really. What's really amusing is when I find some little thing that irritates the hell out of somebody and I do it, over and over again, and they're getting really mad but they're afraid to say anything because they know it will make them look stupid but it's wearing them thin. For example, I knew someone once that didn't like to leave a place until it was spic and span and everything was in it's place. So I'd go in while they were in the bathroom before leaving and leave a pile of mail on the table, or forward them an email when I heard keys jingle. They'd grumble and everybody else would say "what's the big deal? There's always tomorrow to do it. Don't worry about it."
I know, doing things like this wasn't right and my motives were terrible, but the point was made in a very powerful way. People came to appreciate the "do unto others" commandment with a new appreciation when they pissed me off. Just ask the salesman that tried to grab me leaving the grocery store a few months ago. I fended him off, he yelled at me to "not be like that," and, well, I unloaded on him. My husband went back to the store 10 minutes later to have his own words with this gentleman and he was gone. The guy tried to make a scene on me and I screamed right back at him about not being out there harassing customers and grabbing people. Then I complained to the manager and the main headquarters. Well heck, he wanted to play big and make a scene, so I took him on.
And, of course, you all remember the entry that opened this series about the false allegation that someone made at my previous job about shredding documents. I shut that one down in a minute. They said they had to protect the complaintant, I said I had to protect myself and I would be seeing an attorney now, and that was all she wrote.
People often ask me if I feel bad about acting this way. Sometimes I do, but the simple fact of the matter for me, and for everybody else in such situations, is that it boils down to motives. It is always wrong to attack people in any way, shape or form and you are 100% justified in defending yourself. If your motives are defense and setting things right, as in my false accusations thing above, that wasn't wrong. Neither was my reaction to the salesman, because folks, I have my CWP, I WAS packing, and if he got his hands on me then I could have easily argued that I felt threatened because I perceived it as a physical attack, especially since I told him "no thanks" when I came in. I chose to attempt a non-physical resolution to the matter. He may not agree, but he only left with his pride hurt that day. It could have been a very ugly situation if I hadn't chosen to use discernment and good, common sense in the situation. Just look at the Zimmerman case in Florida.
Now messing up the person's office - ok, that was wrong. That was all about she was always trying to put me down, so I struck back by irritating her. My motives there were not right and I repent, even if it was funny.
So the secret to my dark side is out. I'm trying to channel my tendencies toward mischief and outright irritation to the PITA's of the world the right way, but, well, it's a work in progress.
The point of this entry is that you can't deny you have a dark side, because every human being does. We can only take so much and if we're pushed too far, well, it's time to get wicked. Just try to make sure you at least get wicked with right motives. I know that sounds completely counterintuitive, but it's right. Sometimes the truth and what's right seems wrong. It takes discernment to know the difference - and that's a good lead into the next entry.
That's all for today. Happy Friday to you tomorrow. In closing, I'd like to share a video of my favorite song by one of my favorite bands here. It just feels appropriate for this entry, and these times and people in life. Enjoy!
I’ve often said that when you first tell people that you want to be a writer, expect a lot of blank stares at best, and a reaction akin to announcing that you plan to become a serial killer at worst. That is, until you get published. Then everybody will know you and proudly proclaim that they knew you “back when.” They’ll completely forget all the times they said “why do you want to do that?” or “didn’t you graduate? Why not go back to school instead if that’s what you want to do?” Or any other number of “helpful suggestions” that included doing anything but that.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have support. Of course, those closest to me wanted me to succeed at making my dreams come true, but let’s face it – your inner circle is usually pretty small. Most of the people you know won’t be in it, and they certainly won’t understand the things that are most important to you. In fact, even those in your “inner circle” will eventually lose their enthusiasm for your personal pursuits if they don’t see results face, and often. It’s unfortunate, but peoples’ attention spans are usually much shorter than God’s timing. Most people don’t have patience to stay the course, especially in a culture where everything is instantaneous and available with the click of the mouse or the press of a button. That’s why I believe that internal motivation is perhaps the most important element in pursuing your authenticity and purpose in life.
What is internal motivation? Basically, it’s the determination and inner drive to see things through to the end, no matter what it takes. I’ve said before that God will only reveal purpose to you, and for that reason you simply can’t rely on others to hold you up and carry you through the finish line. They have their hands full with their own lives and frankly, they are probably overwhelmed with keeping up with the day to day grind of reality. You must have strength within you to stay the course and be determined to see things through all the way to the end, no matter how many battles or struggles you must endure. There path to purpose isn’t a straight line, but rather a winding highway. There will be progress and setbacks, trials and errors, success and failure, as you wind through the journey. Some people will be with you for all of it, some for part, but remember that they are also taking their own journey’s. We all only have so much emotional energy and must dedicate it to those things that matter most. And let’s be honest, what are you more concerned with: Your own life or somebody elses’? That’s not being selfish – it’s just the way it is. We must attend to our own obligations and priorities first and foremost.
Likewise, there are also people that don’t want to see you succeed. This usually isn’t personal, even though it feels like a very real attack on who we are. It’s really smoke and mirrors for their own insecurity. I believe we all have these “emotional vampires” in our lives that can find the dark cloud in any silver lining and discourage us from doing anything that causes us to rise above where we’re at. Their security is in making sure that you (and often, everybody they know) stay inside the convenient box they’ve put you in for their own comfort. You must realize that this box isn’t your problem. Do yourself a favor by dealing with these toxic relationships quickly and efficiently, and moving on. In fact, that might be the very thing that makes them realize the right thing to do so they can get on with their own lives. Doing the right thing and refusing to accept other peoples’ problems is often the best living testimony we can provide to the world.
Yes, the journey to purpose can be a lonely one at times. There are journey’s we must take alone and things we must discover on our own. The good news is that we are never really alone. The Lord is always right there with us, to ensure that we stay on the right path. He will always do His part as long as we do our part by following the prompting of the Spirit, but sometimes what is right isn’t what looks or seems right. That’s why it’s so important to be internally motivated. These promptings are usually very personal, and we have to be able to stand up to scrutiny, discouragement, and sometimes even attack to see the victory. But as I’ve said so many times before, the reward is well worth it. There’s nothing better than realizing you are uniquely and wonderfully made, and being content with who you are.
Next Time: Contentment – The Secret to Joy.
In this fourth entry of the From Sidekicks to Superheroes series, I’d like to talk about the devil. My point is rather fundamental – it’s that the devil does resist us when we try to be all we were meant to be. Simply stated, he lets no good deed go unpunished. The entire reason why sin and evil exist is because Satan hates humanity and wantsus to suffer. Period. He’s not going to let us have an easy life and we will have to fight the devil every day we walk this Earth.
I trust you understand all of that. I did offer more in the way of reflection on this point in Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World and I encourage you to check that out if you’re interested. For the sake of berevity, I am going to focus this entry on making an important distinction that I feel many people fail to make: That Satan is not the source of all the problems we face in our lives. Although he is the source of plenty of misery and suffering, the truth is that the things we come up against are sometimes the result of our own errors or (gasp!) God Himself resisting us. Let me explain:
Simply stated, we all make mistakes. We’re human and it happens. Sometimes, however, we’re so hung up on our own will that we aren’t willing to admit that we made the mistake. When that happens, God usually puts resistance in our way to give us an opportunity to stop for a moment and take stock. But if we refuse to heed these “warning shots,” then we become a victim of our own mistakes. Here’s an example from my own life:
When I graduated college, I intended to go to graduate school. I had all intentions of getting my Master’s Degree, but I was engaged and the desire to get married and start my own home was greater than further academic pursuit. Ok, I thought, I’ll take some time off, get established, and go back to school later. I did get married, we bought our home, and I found a job, which lead to a promotion a year and a half later. At the time my job had a tuition reimbursement program, so once my one year probation was over, I began looking into advanced degree program opportunities. As luck would have it, I did find one program that I was very interested in, and it qualified for the program. But that’s where the luck stopped.
As soon as I started the application process, I got a memo that the tuition reimbursement program was being cancelled due to budget problems. This was a first “sign” that something wasn’t right. I felt some doubt, but I plugged on. I submitted my application and started looking for grants, loans, and other types of financial aid. Once they received my application, another “sign” came: One of the program administrators called me and said the program didn’t have enough applicants for the following semester, so they were deferring all applicants until the following semester.
At this point, I had serious doubts. I had long dreamed of getting my Master’s degree, but the truth was that I was happy in my current job, and I was starting to wonder if it would be wise for me to take on this burden so early in our marriage. I finally, for the first time, prayed about the situation, and sensed that I was to do nothing for the time being. Allow things to unfold and see what happens.
A week later two things happened: I found out that our household income was too high to qualify for financial aid, and I got a letter from the college stating that due to low enrollment, the program had been disbanded.
Talk about a door slamming closed in your face! I heard the locks bolt and the chain slide too! But I got it – the Lord had me on the path I was meant to be on, and a higher education wasn’t part of it. That was an emotionally and heartbreaking incident for me, and I brought it upon myself. If I had taken time to pray and seek His will instead of following my own ambition, I could have saved so much time and trouble for myself.
There are times, however, when the devil does come against us. For example, that graduate program was reinstated several years later –right when Rick and I started the process of selling our old home and building a new one, in fact. We talked about it for all of 2 minutes before the graduate school option was thrown out completely, for once and for all. The timing and circumstances had finally come together for us to build, and when I took a good look at our life together, I realized that we had accomplished all we wanted by that point anyway without the advanced degree. I finally realized the graduate degree was nothing but selfish ambition for me. I traded “I” and “me” for “us”and “we” when I got married, and part of those marriage vows are to consider how what each does contributes to the whole; and an advanced degree contributed nothing to us as a couple. But I do feel like the devil threw that option at me at that point in time to see if we could be diverted from building our“dream home” and the life that the Lord wanted Rick and I to have together.
The point of this entry is that you must be aware of what’s happening in the spiritual realm if you hope to be authentic and have the victory that Christ died for you to have. It can be difficult to discern whether the things we face are satanic opposition, sowing consequences of our actions, or Holy Intervention, and I’m sorry to say there’s not an earthly litmus test for this. Your only test is that of prayer and the intervention of the Holy Spirit. If you lift up all things in prayer, the Spirit will reveal truth and show you the right way.
For the sake of berevity I’m going to close with this. Next time, we’ll talk about the 4 ways the devil attacks us and how to stand up to it.