Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Take the Big Piece of Wood Out of Your Eye

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye?  First, take the wood out of your own eye.  Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye.”         Matthew 7:3, 5b: NCV

Gossip is a six letter word that causes a whole lot of problems.  It’s a snake that slithers into conversations, striking a terrible blow, and it leaves its poison in minds that soak it up like a dirty sponge.  I really hate what gossip does to people.  It has the ability to turn even the closest of friends into betrayers of trust.  The sad thing is that even when we don’t intend to gossip, the temptation of sharing tidbits of information about the newest Scarlet Letter victim makes even the best of people listen and repeat what they’ve heard.  Human beings are curious, and stoking the fires of gossip comes as naturally to some people as breathing.  My view is that those who participate in it do so to point the focus away from themselves to show the world that the victim’s life is so much more screwed up than theirs is.  Perhaps people gossip because of sheer boredom.  I admit to listening to it when I really wasn't doing anything else important at the time.

We are fascinated with what goes on in others’ lives.  We watch shows like Jerry Springer in all its potato salad throwing glory while staring intently at guests who spew curses and accusations at each other with body guards stepping in when fists start to fly. We sit on the edge of our seats when Maury Povich announces whether some poor guy is or isn’t the father of his lover’s baby.  The fact is people devour other people’s drama like a ravenous beast on the prowl.  So many feed on the negative energy gossiping causes.  At the end of it all there is so much wood in peoples’ eyes that they could open a lumber yard with it.

I know how much gossip hurts.  Nobody gets by in their life without becoming the victim of gossip and finger pointing at some point.  Last year was a really bad year for me.  I admit to doing some things I wasn’t proud of, and to a certain point I understand that I opened myself up for others to talk about me, especially because I live in a community where everyone knows what everyone else is up to.  It was unavoidable for me to escape criticism for my actions.

At that time I worked in an RV park where I saw many of these people on a daily basis.  I would smile, ask them about their day, and even on days where the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anybody, I’d put on an actor’s face because I didn’t want my bad mood affecting anybody else.  I understand that sometimes people just need to vent. They’d also ask about how I was doing in school, and after a while I genuinely started caring about many of them.  During Christmas of 2013 I received more Christmas cards from the majority of them than I had received in all the previous years in my life.  Things were good.

Once I screwed up, all that changed.  My husband and I were going through a really rough time, and I ended up leaving and attempted a relationship with someone else.  It didn’t work out with the new guy, but that’s another story.  Some of the people I trusted, and even looked up to, turned on me faster than a deer fleeing a hunter’s missed gun shot.  As I said, I understood being criticized, especially since it wasn’t like me to do the things I did, but when the outright lies started, that was when I’d had enough.

At first, I felt a range of emotions.  I was hurt, sad, angry at myself for opening myself up to attacks in the first place, then, after all that, I became angry.  I ended up leaving my job so I wouldn’t cause problems for my boss or any more problems for my family.  At first, I understood the most basic emotions I was going through.  I also knew I needed to do a lot of repenting, asking for forgiveness, and solving the problems my husband and I had that caused such a mess in our family.  I hurt people who mattered to me, including myself, and I vowed to never do that again.  But when it came to those who acted as though I was lower than dirt, I felt betrayed by them once they spread lies about me.  To this day I’m not sure exactly who said what, but I do know that I was hearing some crazy and outlandish things, things that I supposedly did, and I have to admit I was almost impressed by the accusers’ sheer imagination.  I stopped going to the office where I used to work, and with the exception of very few family members, I gave up on human beings in general.  I didn’t trust people easily as it was, so I really didn’t care if I ever trusted anyone else again.  I had a lot of rough days with God who listened to some sad and pitiful prayers.

I started to become a person who is nothing like who I truly am, and it almost destroyed me.  I sank into a depression where I felt like there was really no reason for me to be on earth anymore.  Later, I went in for help, and my psychiatrist ended up diagnosing me with bipolar disorder.  After being put on a mood stabilizer, I started to come back to life, yet I was still bitter.  While I didn’t expect people to feel bad for me because of what I’d done, I didn’t expect such a backlash when, in reality, my decisions had nothing to do with them.  The only people who had any real right to judge me were those closest to me, and while I was friendly with my gossipers at one point, that right didn’t include them.

In Christmas of 2014 I received only one card.  Just one.  I learned a valuable lesson about how much it hurts to be at the center of vicious gossip.  I learned that certain people didn’t actually give a crap about how nice or caring I was toward them, and they didn’t remember the times I lent a listening ear to their problems.  They labeled me as someone who became like a kind of joke to them because of my mistakes.  That small RV park office had become a log cabin.  While I have gone on a journey of healing and releasing my bitterness, the lessons still hold true.  I felt bad for the times I acted so cruel to others by talking about them when I shouldn’t have, and I try my best now to avoid gossip as much possible in a world of some people who seek to talk about only the worst in others. In looking only at the faults and weaknesses of others, we only add to the pile of wood.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Not Wise to Punish the Weak Cause of the Strong

November 7, 2015

"It is never wise for us to punish the weak for the injuries the strong have done us."
-"Taming Fire" by Aaron Pogue

As a child, I was extremely shy.  My family moved around quite a bit, and having to make new friends tended to feel more like a burden than a privilege.  Since I knew I would be leaving eventually anyway, I didn't bother to share my feelings with other children or adults, and many times I chose to be alone in my own world.  The swings on the playground were my friends, and I felt as though I could soar into my dreams, ones of stability, safety, and a family that didn't have the issues we had.  I wanted acceptance from everyone, but kids can be cruel, and life isn't easy for anyone. I was too busy worrying about what others thought of me instead of seeing myself as a pretty cool kid, one who got up in front of a whole auditorium of parents, teachers, and students to sing a solo. Now that's amazing for such a shy girl! Still, I felt weak and unsure of myself. When I became an adult, I ended up getting into an abusive relationship that lasted a couple of years.  It took a lot of time and God's grace to help me become the person I am today.

Unfortunately, I developed a deep dislike of weakness. Growing up, I learned the weak were picked on and not respected, and I learned not to cry. For instance, to this day, I automatically expect certain things from my mate, namely his total protection, and when I feel I don't have it, I lose respect for him. This has also affected how I view others who seem weak to me.  The reason I am this way is because I never want to feel like a wimp, get taken advantage of, and have a low self-esteem again.  Anything that reminds me of the things that once brought me low makes me lose trust in that thing or person.  Incidents I've gone through and people I've interacted with in my life have made me develop a defense mechanism enabling me to keep what used to haunt me away from me as much as possible. (Obviously, I'm still a work in process).

I watched the movie "The Mocking Jay, Part 1" a  few months ago, and I believe it was the Director who said, "People don't always show up the way you want them to."  The point is that people will disappoint us because we expect them to be what we need them to be, not thinking about the fact that nobody is perfect and has their life altogether.  We all come from something that has shaped us into who we are.  Nobody escapes life's lessons, but some do adapt to them better than others.  But, just because we can't escape lessons, it doesn't mean we need to hide in the shadows from the ones that bring out our deepest fears.  At times, we don't have a choice when we'll face those fears, so all we can do is put on a brave face and step forward.  That alone is the first step toward freedom.
I am ashamed to admit there have been times when I've held another person's weaknesses against them.  I only let people into my life who I can count on to be there for me, and I know I'm not alone in this. I have gotten angry at loved ones because of what I perceived as their inadequacies because I got hurt by them.  I wanted the pain to stop, and I wanted to be in control of what I was prepared to deal with, regardless if the other person had their own personal hell they had to fight.  I've held those closest to me responsible for not understanding what I needed from them.  I was punishing them for their weaknesses because of things that happened to me that were out of my control long ago, things that stronger people than myself did to me.

I am truly sorry for ever putting my own issues onto the shoulders of those closest to me.  I expected them to carry what I couldn't.  It is unwise to expect the people we care for to unravel our past and fix it for us.  In reality, it takes a lot of work, prayer, and the grace of God's healing power to help us face our fears and move forward, leaving the past behind.  People can play a part in the healing process, but they cannot become the process for us.  Laying down my weaknesses at the throne of God is the only thing I have done that actually helps me heal when all else has failed me.

We all have shortcomings, and many times our shortcomings become our crutches, ones that are visible and felt by those closest to us.  Instead of blaming someone for something we don't understand, we should give them a break (as long as it isn't endangering anyone of course).  I think if I had given myself better than I thought I could have received when I was younger, things would have probably turned out differently in my case. I wouldn't have had a reason to develop the unhealthy views that traumatized me for so long. Now, I state my mind and know my worth.  The point is, we don't have to accept our limitations.  Our weaknesses don't have to define who we are.  God, Himself, knows where we are weak.  It's much better to trust Him to use His strength in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and  it's best to open up and let people in, let them understand your motivations for acting the way you do.  It's the way to prevent many misunderstandings.  Just because someone who was stronger than you took advantage of you at one time in your life, doesn't mean it has to be for all time.