This could happen in a number of ways, so I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss a couple of areas where I’ve seen this resistance in all its ugly glory, and share the wisdom I’ve gained in dealing with it over the past ten years.
I’m going to be more brutally honest here than is appropriate in a Christian book: I’m skeptical of popular people. I’m pushing 40 years old, and I have a lovely knife collection courtesy of all the ones stuck in my back from “well liked” people that were hiding a hair trigger temper. Certainly not all of them have been that way, but I’ve been on the receiving end of the wrath of “swell” people that launched all out assaults on my character – sometimes for standing my ground, sometimes for rocking the boat, and sometimes simply for refusing to get involved in their drama and minding my own business like I thought I was supposed to. It’s caused me to back away from people that seem to have too many friends, because you never know where those emotional landmines are.
Certainly, I know this is falling prey to a stereotype I’ve created in my own mind. The problem with having a bachelor’s degree in psychology is that you can’t fool yourself. I know it’s a generalization, that its not fair for me to think like that, and that for every popular time bomb I’ve met, I’ve crossed paths with two or three that were perfectly decent human beings that demonstrated great fruit of the Spirit. I guess that when you’re caught in explosions that big, you don’t forget it. You definitely watch your step, or at least try to stay at a range outside of any potential blast radius.
I’m no respecter of persons, which has been much to the dismay of many that have crossed my path. I’m not impressed by power or position, and frankly I don’t care how many friends you have or how many people like you. My criteria for whether I like and respect you is simple: you’re a decent human being, or you aren’t. Integrity, honesty, authenticity, and loyalty are the hallmarks that define character. That’s easy enough and certainly fair, but you’d be surprised at how many people have a problem with it.
I bring this up because I’ve heard many other introverts and “loner” types (like me) complain about similar experiences, and I believe it’s a context that we can all relate to. By now we’ve come to the sad realization that cliques didn’t end in high school, and they’re just as prevalent in the adult world as they are on the playground. You’d think we’d learn, but then again it took 70 years of captivity for the Israelites to learn that God meant what he said about commandments, obedience and all those other inconvenient things that made them “uncool” with the pagans around them, and the rest of us still don’t get it. Gene pools are supposed to dilute with successive generations, but Adam’s stubbornness is just as dominate now as it was in the beginning of time. That’s frightening.
We live in a world of contradictions, and frankly some people are better at standing up to them than others. A bold person who doesn’t mind standing out or being a loner with a small “inner circle” of trusted individuals (like myself) usually winces less than a people-pleaser that’s been taught to make everybody happy. It’s a battle we all face, and some of us do better than others. Fair enough, we can grant other believers the grace to face the battle. It’s the people that don’t have time for that giving us reason to reach for the Excedrin, the squeeze ball, the social media post, the wine, the whiskey, or whatever you wish.
Christians should know that they’ll be challenged, and that they need to stand up to it. The problem is that they often get mixed up on what they’re standing for. Many new believers make the classic mistake of believing that they’re standing up for Jesus and defending His principals. Even I did this back in the day. I’d go to the mat for anything just to I could win another battle for Him. The problem is, I didn’t realize what a fool I made of myself in so many instances, because Jesus doesn’t need anybody to stand up for Him. He already won the ultimate battle, and He will come again victorious to clean up the rest of the crap that’s in the world. What’s done is done, and what’s coming is coming. Nothing we do changes that. So what, exactly, are we fighting for?
Our own integrity, that’s what, and the truth is that it’s only a fight if we make it one. Living by faith in a faithless world is a personal choice, and standing by our choices is our right as human beings. If we chose to believe in God and live by His word, we have a right to do that, and to expect that others will respect it. They don’t have to like it. They don’t have to like us. They do have to understand that this is how it’s going to be with us, and that understanding usually comes by calmly standing our ground than martyring ourselves. I learned the hard way that whining, screaming, and crying over the unfairness of it all gets you nowhere. Nobody hears you, and nobody cares. I finally got it one day and when somebody snapped at me about being “like that,” and I replied, “you have to understand that I’m going to do what I believe is right. If you want to prevent that, you do what’s right first.” You could have knocked them over with a feather. There went the fight. And yes, I have been tested on that, but once usually all it takes for people to learn to keep their shenanagins on their side of the line.
It seems that Martin Luther’s “here I stand, I can do no other” is much more effective than engaging in battle. You do what you will. I’ll do what I will. God will sort it all out for better or worse, and He deals with such things through time and circumstance better than I would. End of story.
The bottom line is that you can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk. Everybody talks, which is why fighting doesn’t work. Respect is earned through actions, not won by words. A therapist once told me that people lie with their mouths and tell truth with their actions, so don’t listen to words; watch what they do. That’s some of the best advice I’ve had (and the one thing lots of people wish nobody had ever told me).
Yes, you will butt heads with non-believers every now and then, but you know what? Non-believers butt heads with one another, so you’re not special. Your faith-based words and actions are just another thing about this world that pisses them off and deepens that two ton chip on their shoulder anyway. It happens all the time. Some people are just jerks, and you can’t do anything about it. If you calmly stand your ground then you find yourself fighting less and being yourself more. Don’t let it get you down.
When “Right” Becomes A Liability
Just be aware that when they realize that they can’t turn you, then they’ll try to turn your own nature against you. This is usually the next line of defense, because they believe they’ve watched enough movies and TV to be as clever as the characters they admire. They’ll actually believe they can turn your virtue to their advantage and against you and if you aren’t mindful, this trick can work.
Here I’ll make another one of my well-known, unflattering admissions: I’ve been known to provoke people to anger on purpose. I know that pissing people off isn’t shining light on the world, but it’s part of a strategy. Standing on faith gave rise to a problem in my life that’s seemed to grow over the years: co-dependency. People learned that I’m a hard worker with high standards, so they believe they can relax and rely on me to do things. The problem is the domino effect described in Proverbs: a little rest, a little folding of the hands, and eventually I’m asked to do things that they should be doing themselves. They try to flatter me by telling me I’m so smart and they don’t understand it all, but I realize it as the smokescreen that it really is. It’s not that I’m smart; it’s that they’re lazy, and they want to capitalize on my work ethic “because it’s the Christian thing to do.” Talking, pleading, whining, and leaving it to rot doesn’t work against lazy, because lazy can tolerate a lot. The only way to win against co-dependency is to set boundaries, kick off the training wheels, and leave them to coast. And boundaries raise people’s ire every time.
I know you aren’t supposed to hang people out to dry. I know it’s not nice to challenge them or to make them angry. But as a person once told me, sometimes people are wrong, and they need correcting. Yes, people get angry with me when I withdraw, but I do it with the intention of helping them rise to their potential. If they do it “just to show me,” at least they rose to something, and I’ve seen a lot of progress happen that way. See, you’re smart too. Intelligence isn’t limited to a lucky few. We’re all smart in some ways. If I make you mad trying to mine your talent, fume away.
Christian is not equivalent to doormat, and you must have the audacity to draw the line and stare them down. I don’t recall a single Bible verse where Jesus said “whatever, have it your way” and walked away. People like the Christ that was obedient to the cross; not the Christ that turned over moneychanger tables – and yet it’s all the same. Remember this: when somebody makes “the right thing” a liability, it’s no longer “the right thing.” That changes everything.
Sometimes the right thing looks and feels wrong, but that doesn’t change the fundamental facts. It’s human nature to test people. It’s human nature to push them to see how much you can get away with. It’s human nature to push limits. And its God’s will that the right thing be done in all circumstances, despite human nature. The real question is, are you working with Him or against Him?
Respectfully Disagreeing and Standing Alone
I believe we’ve all known Christians that believe the world is out to get them. They think that everybody is against them because of their faith and that they have to constantly be on the lookout for the next attack. It may sound paranoid, but there are times when it does feel like your faith makes you a target. The world doesn’t flinch at making fun of Christians, at pointing out our flaws, or at making assumption like the ridiculous ones I’ve addressed in this book, and countless others. Christians do seem to be exempt from political correctness. I’ve never seen somebody get in the face of an Islamic and accuse them of being a hellbound killer, but they’ll snicker at Christians and call us freaks to our face. There’s certainly a double standard at play in society, but I don’t believe it’s cause for paranoia and it’s certainly not worth martyring ourselves over. We can only be a victim if we allow it.
We are all unique creations and as such, some personalities aren’t going to play well together. This is true whether you’re Christian or not, and unfortunately there’s no “once size fits all” answer on how to deal with conflict. We do have to remember the one hallmark of our faith, though, and that’s grace. Grace is about freedom, and the truth is that we have no right to judge because we don’t know where they’re coming from. Often, it behooves us to remember that hurt people hurt others, and the best thing is to forgive and let go for our own peace. Don’t let hate send you to hell. The charge of the Christian is to share the gospel, and people have a choice on whether to accept it. We try to share what we know to save their soul, but we can’t save them from themselves. If they want to show the world what a jerk they are then you can’t stop them.
The truth is that as Christians, we will sometimes stand alone. Look at mainstream media and you see there aren’t many people of faith at the top. The world doesn’t like that, so the world doesn’t allow it to rise. Sure, that may change with the indie markets rising. Certainly, they have more of a voice, and more niche markets are rising for us. But in the end, we won’t be popular. That’s the price of a life rooted in Christ. He did say that we are not of the world, so the world doesn’t love us, so I hope you’re ok with being a loner. And really, it’s not so bad. I rather prefer being a loner because there’s a unique freedom in not being bound by expectations and being able to embrace what speaks to your soul without justifying it to those that don’t understand. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from standing alone, its that the view is a lot better from here.
Heck with the world, anyway. In pure geologic terms, it’s just a huge rock hurling through space, and rocks can’t think. If people want to win the favor of a rock, they can have it. What matters most are things that can’t be quantified: love, relationships, faith, peace, and joy. A rock can’t give you that.
Wow, when you put it that way, it does sound silly. Suddenly, panoramic view of freedom looks inviting, and eternity seems like an investment worth considering.