How to do you handle a relationship that you wish would go away?
How do you deal with a hurt person who continually hurts other people?
Well recognizing what kind of relationship you are in is a good place to start. All friendships are not created equal and that’s okay.
Here are my thoughts, however unscholarly, from my own experience:
1. In extreme cases, if the person is verbally abusive/violent and is a member of your own family, you might have to limit contact with them for the sake of your own family.
2. If the person is a non-abusive “believer” who:
- plays mind games,
- is competitive instead of constructive
- thrives on territorial wars/power struggles for control or authority
- uses control tactics like the silent treatment or angry outbursts
- uses their mouth to destroy others via slander, gossip
- portrays themselves as the perpetual victim
- assumes the worst in others
- loves discord and feuding
you have two choices:
A. Interact with them:
If you do choose to interact with them, it has to be for one reason: to show them the unconditional love of Christ and to be a good example.
This type of “friendship” is a ministry and really no true friendship at all.
A person who doesn’t understand how to love others can never be a true friend to you, so don’t expect that from them. Understanding the difference will keep you from disappointment, and will help you focus on loving that person with a Common Mercy “for Christ’s sake”–He makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. He loved us when we were unlovable.
Interactions might look like: a friendly smile or hello, a kind word when you know they’ve just gossiped about you, not repaying evil for evil. You can invite them to your family parties or functions, but be aware that they may spoil your event depending on their mood. (something to consider when considering the comfort of other guests.)
A good friend of mine let me know that another woman in the church had been gossiping about me for years and she thought I should know what I am dealing with. Her gossip included digs and jabs about ministries my husband and I ran, negative comments about this blog, comments about our kids and about other speaking opportunities I had been given. She was just letting me know because I seemed “clueless” about it. I told her that I already knew all about this “behind my back” behavior.(Several women in the church had warned me about her.) She seemed surprised because this news didn’t seem to rattle me.
My mom taught me many lessons that I still remember to this day:
- You are only responsible for you.
- Other people do not have to control you. The Holy Spirit controls you.
- It is not the critic that counts.
- Don’t lower yourself and your standards. Be the bigger person.
- Only God’s approval matters.
- Don’t compound the sin by joining in.
- It’s better to be alone and do right than to be popular and displeasing to God.
- When someone gossips, the poor reflection is on THEM, not the person they are slandering.
- Love them anyways.
- Leave your reputation and the results to God.
- Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay.
Do I wish this had NOT happened? Yes, of course. But am I devastated because it did? No. People are people. Fallen people are fallen people. And I know my own propensity to sin and am really not surprised when others sin as well. I actually felt pity for this woman—a bundle of insecurity and anger, control freak and “desperate to be admired” all rolled up in one. And I could relate to (and pity) those feelings as well. It is part of fallen humanity. But at some point, she needs to give that all to the Lord to control. I’ve been there myself and know God can help her if she’ll let him. But in the end, she “owns” her own actions.
B. Avoid them:
If you are having a particularly trying week, or you just feel out of sorts or annoyed yourself, avoidance is the better route. If you are not able to love as Christ loved, don’t double the sin by getting into their games, which have now become your games.
3. If the person is not a believer, then obviously their need for Christ is the biggest concern. These outward problems are only symptoms of a bigger need.
In the end,
I don’t recommend confronting this type of person about their behavior. This is not the typical Christian who is trying to grow. This is the behavior of a scorner, and unfortunately many times the school of hard knocks is their teacher of choice.
“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.”
“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”
But a mocker (arrogant scorner, scoffer. Always cynical, arrogantly dismissive, with loads of saracasm) who is wicked, is unteachable.
“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. ”
“A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.”
“Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.” (A fool, according to Proverbs, is someone who doesn’t heed the instruction of scripture, although exposed to it. Instead of hearing and doing, they hear and “dismiss” scripture.)
Correction/Rebuke in the church are only helpful to the one who is willing to learn from them (Proverbs 15:31; 17:10; 19:25; 25:12)
Finally, pray that God would give you wisdom when dealing with these types of people. I find that I can barely take care of myself and my own kids, and that I don’t usually have the desire or emotionally energy to get into much with this kind of person. I vacillate between pitying them for their obviously miserable life and when I really stop to think about what their internal peace must be like, I feel compassion, but usually I dread them for making my life harder. (selfish) I need to pray for them and myself, that God’s purposes in ordaining this relationship will be realized.
Note: if you are in a church leadership position, you may not have a choice whether to deal with this person or not. This stuff would need to be confronted for the health of the church. As leadership, you can’t allow one “sheep” to seriously harm the other “sheep” or cause divisions in the flock and this is where pastoral oversight comes into play.
How about you? How do you deal with these situations? Any other insight you could offer? Feel free to share in the comments.