Saturday, July 24, 2010

Difficult People

Until recently, I had a very narrow view of who difficult people were in my life. Having worked in traditional office environments and traditional church settings, they were basically the people that did things that got on my nerves. Lately though, I've been broadening that definition, because honestly, a difficult person can have a negative impact on your life even if they aren't "out to get you."

What I've found most dangerous about all of these, is that their behavior and decisions can and have clouded my judgment in properly hearing and responding to God's guidance in my life. For me, they have all caused stress, frustration and sadness…emotions that have "clogged my spiritual ears" so to speak. Sometimes God wants you in a certain situation and it's entirely too easily fall back on the "bail" reflex because someone is making that situation uncomfortable. I've also had the opposite problem though. I don't like being forced to do things. So, for instance, when someone has tried to force me out of a situation, or said they didn't think I could accomplish something, I've dug my heels in deeper for the sake of my ego and drive, not God's plan.
 The Arch Enemy: We've probably all seen this person. They may be an outright bully. They may go behind your back. They may be a sociopath. In any case, they have a personal issue with you and make direct and specific efforts to get in your way or tear you down.
War Makers: This one took me most by surprise…or at least the impact it's had on my life has. I've always known that there were people who lived their lives differently than me. That's what makes the world interesting. I started to notice problems in two different situations though. First, when a person feels they need you to conform to their world in order for them to be comfortable or second, when you're forced into someone else's world because of association (work, church, community efforts, etc.) and the world you want doesn't jive with the world they're building. In this case, there isn't necessarily any hostility and neither party is necessarily wrong, but the scenario easily leads to either or both of you being a thorn in the other's side.
Trickle Downs: Very similar to War Makers, and for me, particularly frustrating. These are the people who make decisions in their lives, and those decisions then affect you. For me, this has most frequently shown up from people in power. Though I understand that life is often unfair, I'm a believer in the concept of servant leadership. I believe that leaders exist in part to help minimize inequity in the lives of their followers…so I find it offensive, even to the point of anger, when that responsibility is blatantly ignored solely to support the assumptions/needs that an individual might have.

I've found it useful to ask myself a few questions when my "hearing" starts to go...

1) Have you been falling off on your devotional time? Have you allowed your focus to shift?
2) Are your emotions reflections of tangible threats, or simply feelings unto themselves?
3) Are you ignoring the impact that people are having on you in an effort to make the problem more comfortable to solve? (This seems to happen most often with family for me)
4) Why are you feeling what you're feeling? 
5) When are you feeling what you're feeling? Is it at work? After church? Only when talking to certain people? Only when hearing about certain people?

Interestingly, even when the motivations weren't personal, my life was still changed. That's really gotten me over the idea that personal attacks are different, or worse, than impersonal ones…all have an impact on your life and a person's motivation really doesn't make much difference in the long run. Sure, most of us prefer to be liked, but if someone is causing confusion in my life because of mental illness, the effect is seldom much different than if they do it because someone hurt them in their past or if they just don't like my hair cut (though in each case, the response might be very different.)

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