All You’re Ever Gonna Be Is Mean

When I think of mean, I think of the Grinch (among others).  And I’m sure if I were to take a poll most people would say there is someone in their life, whether it be a family member, a boss, a co-worker or a neighbor who they think will never change and will always be a mean person no matter what. Taylor Swift even wrote a song describing her mean person as “You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me. You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I’m nothing. All you’re ever gonna be is mean. Why you gotta be so mean?” Unfortunately there are those who may be in your life who will never change. You may pray for them and try everything you can think of to win them over with kindness but they are unwilling or unable to change. As a Christian, does there ever come a time when you should walk away from a key relationship in your life or are we expected to just keep forgiving and praying no matter how bad it gets?

This is undoubtedly a difficult situation with no real easy answer. But I do believe there are certain circumstances that calls for us to step away from unhealthy relationships and before restoration of that relationship can take place, there must be defined boundaries in place. I have experienced this in my own family where a particular situation became so unhealthy and the person’s behavior so over the line, that the only solution was to completely cut off any and all contact with the individual. This was an extremely difficult decision because as Christians we are called to forgive and to walk in grace. But we are not called to be emotionally abused, controlled or manipulated by others. There are times when enough is enough.

Sometimes no matter how much you forgive, how much you pray, how much you encourage, how much you share your faith and God’s power to transform lives – some people just aren’t going to change and that’s hard to accept, especially when you believe in the God of miracles who can change anything or anybody. But the person has to be a willing participant for God to change them and that is not always the case. And when this happens, we need to guard our own hearts and protect our own emotions and remove, at least for a time, toxic relationships from our lives. In most cases it doesn’t have to be forever because it may be the very thing that makes the person realize they cannot continue their behavior without consequences so they may be motivated to change.

But unfortunately, I can’t promise you that the person you have to walk away from will ever change. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. And I can’t give you scripture that specifically says it’s ok to walk away instead of continuing to forgive no matter how mean they are. I can show you scripture where one of the disciples asked Jesus how many times they were to forgive others who continued to sin against them and Jesus answered seventy times seven, basically meaning as many as it takes. (Matt. 18:21-22). I can show you scripture where Jesus told his disciples that if they did not forgive those who sinned against them then their Father in heaven would not forgive them (Matt. 6:15). Jesus even told them “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also” (Luke 6:29). So, is there ever justification to remove friends or family from your life when they treat you badly? There is an instance where Jesus was sending His disciples out to share the gospel and He told them “if anyone does not welcome you, shake the dust from your feet (Matt. 10:14). There are those people who are determined to not follow Christ, but instead they choose to continue in a perpetual cycle of sin. I believe when we encounter these people in our lives, God is saying to us that it may be necessary to move on when they are unwilling to listen because they are imprisoned to their sin.

When people are held hostage by sin, many times they take it out on others. It doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong to deserve to be the target of their harsh words and actions. It simply means that they will lash out at anyone whose life reveals the darkness that is present in their own life. I don’t believe that God intends for us to be a target of people’s anger and outbursts simply because they are miserable in their own lives. I don’t believe He expects us to continue in familial relationships that are poisonous to our lives and our children’s lives. I do believe we are expected to forgive but I don’t believe that forgiving always means allowing others to mistreat you. There are examples in the bible where Jesus did have a righteous and justified anger toward the behavior of others (Matt. 21:12, Matt. 23). But in His anger He never sinned. If you are in a situation where you have a family member or close friend who continually crosses the line of respectful and acceptable behavior toward you and you have forgiven or overlooked the behavior to the point that you have decided the relationship has crossed over into an unhealthly situation, it may be time to disengage from regular contact with them. In my particular situation, after much prayer it was decided that we could not continue having contact with someone that was clearly in need of help. Years of unresolved anger, rejection, bitterness and unforgiveness had left her depressed and feeling out of control. Her response was to attempt to control and manipulate those closest to her. The ensuing result took its toll on our family and brought strife into our home. After forgiving and attempting everything we could think of to bring about a change in the relational dynamic, the line was crossed and the relationship had to be severed.

We had no set time period in mind for how long this would last but we entered into that decision knowing our intention was a temporary severance of contact. We began to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance to show us when the door could be opened to begin restoration. That time was a week ago and we reached out to make the first step toward reconciliation. But before the door was opened we sat down and discussed boundaries. We knew we could never go back to the way things were. If there was going to be reconciliation it was going to have to occur within healthy, well-defined boundaries. After years of dealing with this relationship we knew what the problem was. After years of following Jesus and studying His words we could recognize the symptoms that caused our family member to act the way she did. But just because we had identified the problem and the reason behind it didn’t mean the problem was fixed. We now have to begin the process of healing years of verbal attacks, manipulation of emotions and attempts at controlling that created mistrust and distance. I can’t promise the outcome will be favorable, that is up to her. I do know Jesus loves her and desires desperately for her to relinquish control of her life into His healing and comforting arms. He is the peace she so desperately seeks and our hope is that this time around our lives may reveal Him in a way she’s never seen before. Time will tell but for now we have hope that all she’s ever gonna be in the future is redeemed, forgiven, loved and restored into right standing with God.

Time Heals All Pain

Time heals all pain, or does it? I am the primary caretaker for my 99-year-old grandmother. Each morning about this time I get up and set the necessary things out in the bathroom for her and then knock on her door to wake her up. Most mornings she’s already awake and responds with a chipper “come in”.  For her age she is in remarkably good health. She is on one medication, she reads the entire newspaper daily and she loves to watch Dancing With the Stars. Of course she is slow in her movement, especially in the morning when I help her out of bed but she walks without assistance. Her body isn’t what it used to be but she has very few limitations considering her age. But ironically it’s her emotional limitations that are most paralyzing in her life. She is gripped by fear – fear of death, fear of falling, fear of someone breaking in the house, fear of not having enough money to pay the extremely minimal bills she has, fear of being alone, and fear of not being in control. I remember earlier in her life she had a fear of flying which prevented her from traveling anywhere beyond a reasonal driving distance. Her fear of driving in snow kept her homebound whenever there was even a minimal snowfall in our town. Her fear of water kept her from enjoying time on the lake with family. And her fear of germs created extra work for her as she felt the need to sterilize everything before it was used. But back then her fears were more of a hassle than a handicap. My theory has always been that over time things would get better – that at 99-years-old and having never had to experience any extreme illnesses or tragedy in her life that she would be living carefree with not a worry in the world other than the obvious physical concerns. I thought she would feel free to not worry about the things in life that caused her such concern when she was younger. Based on her life experiences I assumed she would find enjoyment in her twilight years with a peace of mind that she has lived a fulfilling life, is blessed with family who loves her dearly and with the comfort of knowing all her financial needs are securely met.  But what I have found in not only my grandmother but others, is that over time the things in our lives that go unchecked, unhealed, and unanswered only get worse. The roots begin to go deeper in our souls and take hold of our lives with a grip so tight we become bound by whatever it is that has us held prisoner. For some it’s unforgiveness toward someone who has hurt them, for others it is insecurity and fear of failure, for others it’s the fear of rejection rooted in someone they thought loved them and would always be there for them leaving them unexpectedly. For many it’s a sense of shame and guilt associated with something they did that consumes their thoughts and affects their relationships and behaviors years later. We falsely believe that over time we will feel better – that the hurt won’t hurt so bad, that the guilt will diminish and that the anger will subside – but it doesn’t. We become a prisoner to our past. There is only one option that will bring the true freedom we seek. Only One who can set us free from the things that keep us bound from living life instead of just trying to make it through it. His name is Jesus and He died for your freedom, He died for the forgiveness of the sins that hold you captive and for the unforgiveness toward others that keeps you bound. It’s time to cut whatever it is off at the root before it goes any deeper. It’s time to surrender it to God and let Him begin healing those deep-rooted wounds and hurts in you. It’s time to heal all pain.

Wounded Warriors

I grew up and still live in a military town. I served in the US Navy. I respect and appreciate those who serve and their families who make incredible sacrifices for our freedom. My heart aches for those who return from war wounded. Many times the wounds are very obvious. Other times the wounds are not so apparent when you look at the soldier and their family. It’s the wounds we don’t see that cause the most damage. I’ve seen marriages and families in crises because of the unseen wounds of war. And in many of those cases the wounded turn to indulgence and excess to provide healing for their invisible pain. That type of healing is temporary and eventually the wounds reach a point of irreparable damage. The same holds true for wounds we received as children. Many of the hurts we endured during childhood create wounds that as adults we attempt to heal on our own with a myriad of remedies. We seek out various indulgences like food, shopping, alcohol, excessive exercising, or busyness to bring us relief from the aches of our wounds. These addictions bring temporary reprive from the pain but they also imprison us. The shame behind our addictions cause us to build walls. But the trouble with building walls around yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same walls that secure your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed. There is only one way to bring complete healing to hurts and wounds of this life and that is the love of Jesus Christ. Allow Him to bring healing to the deepest aches of your heart. Having to live with the pain for the rest of your life is not your only option.

Dance Moms, Hoarders and Kate, Oh My!

Last night my 17 year-old son saw Dance Moms for the first time. I asked him his thoughts and he said “I feel like I need to report them to someone. But how do you report people who are on TV?” Between Dance Moms, Animal Hoarders and the finale of Kate Plus 8, we witnessed destructive parenting at its worst. And the disturbing reactions by the children, who witnessed the horrific and verbally abusive outbursts, is evidence that there will be long-lasting consequences. And the part that is most heartbreaking is that it’s all for the sake of selfish ambition, greed and pride, all of which are at a level that is hard to comprehend. We may never know the long-term impact that the adult’s behavior will have on their children. But what I do know is that many adult women have scars left behind by wounds, hurts and unspeakable acts that they experienced in childhood. Many times these unhealed scars are easily “reopened” and bleed into all areas of their lives. And in most instances the women seek healing in relationships, activities, food, positions that make them feel important or needed and in the worst cases, addictions. Unfortunately, these are only small bandaids for the gaping wounds that have been left. There is only one place to find true and lasting healing – in the arms of Jesus. If you are hurting and have scars that need healing once and for all, I encourage you to talk to someone about what that means. And if you have no one to ask, you can always ask me.