Monday, December 11, 2006

How to love enemies and deal with offensive people.

             It is a difficult thing to deal with people who are offensive, manipulative, or simply disagreeable.  Everything inside us wants to escape, run away from them, and just get on with our day.  The longer we have to endure them unwillingly, the more likely we are to explode at them in anger, or if we can't bear to be angry with them, we may very well dump all our anger on the next most likely recipient, who usually turns out to be a person we love or are very close to.  Then they are shocked and wonder why we are treating them like that.  Where is the Lord when we need Him most?  What does the Lord expect us to do?            
             Believe it or not, when we are harrassed by such life situations, and they happen far more frequently than we want to admit, the Lord is actually providing us with a wonderful opportunity to make progress in all the areas of our life touched by all of this.  A lot of people struggle with similar issues but find it more difficult to make progress because the troublesome person has died and is no longer around for them to respond to in a different way, as they would like to have done earlier but were unable because they were too young or didn't know how.  Now that they are older, they see how they could approach it differently.
             Here is my suggestion.  While it seems to be so annoying or troubling for us to deal with an offensive person, the main part of our burden is that we allow ourselves to be drawn into the other person's agenda.  What I mean is that we respond to whatever initiatives he makes or words she says.  We are responding on their terms.  Instead, we can try the following.
             We can choose how we want to respond to the other person.  This is a way of practicing what Jesus said about loving our enemies and doing good to those who persecute us.  Here is how the Lord has taught me to do it.  When such a person is coming "at me" I retreat inside myself to that place where the Lord is with me and I ask Him, "So, Lord, here he is again.  What would You suggest I do with him?  Here is how he makes me feel.....  I don't want to go there, Lord, but instead I want to remain peaceful in You.  Please show me how You see him and love him."  and so on.... 
             While you're doing this, you are removing your very sensitive self at least "one layer" away from the offensive person and choosing to walk around in that place where you can be with the Lord and notice your own thoughts and feelings. This is very important, because it is there that the best solutions will become apparent as the Holy Spirit sheds light on the situation and on your own thoughts and feelings and allows you to see the Father's will, just as He did it for Jesus when He walked this Earth.
             At some point, the offensive person will notice that you are not listening to him and will say something.  That will be the first time that he will actually be looking at you and listening to you.  That's when you can share with him something of what you have seen inside yourself of God's will and love for you.  What I usually choose to say to an offensive or disturbing person is something like "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but right now I happen to be late for an appointment (if this is the case.  Remember that it is important not to lie, not even little white lies, but always to remain in the truth.  Jesus said that only the truth will set us free.) and so cannot continue this conversation.  Don't call me, I'll call you.  If you don't hear from me a month from now, please do call and we'll talk about it then."  OR  (In the case of an offensive father.)
            "Dad, have I ever told you that I'm grateful for the gift of life God has given me through you and Mom?  Thank you.  I am content with what I'm doing to help myself right now.  I appreciate your concern, but it's all right.  I can handle this fine.  It's my life and I have to do this myself.  I have a husband now, and he is the one I look to for the help I need.  What I need from you, Dad, is.... (For example, "just pray for me", or just be supportive, and so on.)
             I would suggest other family members do the same thing.  It may sound stupid for me to say that we don't have to let people upset us, since we have no choice about the involuntary feelings that come over us just as an immediate response of our organism to what stimulates it.  It is true that our immediate gut reaction is involuntary and that we have no choice but to endure it.  This is something we all must endure and part of what Jesus means when He asks us to carry our cross.  Much of our cross is our own organism and all its inner workings which can be a burden for us each day. 
             What I'm suggesting above relates to another part or level in us deeper than the gut reactions of our organism.  It's the soul, which includes the faculties of intelligence to make sense out of what we observe with our senses and feel with our emotions.  It also includes our memory and imagination, our heart and soul, where the Blessed Trinity stay within us.  When we go into our soul consciously, then we go into a place where the possibilities are literally endless, because we are allowing the Blessed Trinity to partner with us, and we are being attentive to them.  We can begin to learn how to better notice the suggestions and inclinations they are giving us as guidance and as alternatives to the gut reactions we are making efforts to resist.  We want to resist our gut reactions so that they don't dominate our entire self.
             When we try to do this, this is what it looks or feels like.  You continue to be aware of your gut reactions to the other, but you begin to see that these are on the surface, like the storm on the surface of a lake.  You begin to feel less threatened or dominated by this storm of feelings and thoughts, as you discover the hidden depths within yourself, where there is a lot of room for refuge, and where you can find a few seconds to think other thoughts than the ones the offensive person wants you to have.  Then you begin to taste how good that freedom, however small, can be, and this strengthens you to stand more solidly on your own feet, and you can begin to think independent thoughts about even this offensive person, and feel pity for him, and gratitude for the fact that he cares, however inappropriate the means he takes to show it.
             The key is simply to do something to assert your independence and to practice relying on the Lord in each situation by pulling your attention away from the person trying to manipulate or control or persuade you and giving your precious atention to the One who will make better use of it, Jesus.  May you continue to walk in the Lord and make good use of this opportunity the Lord is giving you to allow that youthful part of us, what some call the "inner child" to pass through the threshold of the next generation, passing through the gate of youth into adulthood.  This is what adults do.  We stand on our own two feet, take responsibility for our own self, and face any and all comers, with the Lord's help, of course.
             Let us pray that we may all continue to find ways to enjoy the Lord's help and come to the satisfaction of finding our way through the thickets of obstacles in our life.  There is nothing sweeter than the satisfaction of doing something like this ourselves.  May we continue to have a meaningful Advent and peaceful, loving Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”  Luke 24:32

«Notre cœur n’était-il pas tout brûlant au-dedans de nous, quant Il nous parlait en chemin, quand Il nous ouvrait les Écritures?»  Luc 24 :32

 

l’abbé / Fr. Gilles A. Surprenant

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