Our calendars should reflect what we love and where our priorities lie. If our emotional energy is increasingly sapped, it’s time to re-evaluate where and with whom are we spending our time and talents? We need to remember that when we listen to the opinions of others, we can forget who has dominion over us.
It’s an exhilarating experience when we get the opportunity to use our gifts. To be part of a team or to lead that team is quite an honor; watching our ideas build into something bigger. The excitement we experience can be a motivator or deterrent towards the next project, and many times we base that excitement on the responses we receive. To give glory to God for our gifts will keep our motives in check when we step out to use those gifts.
The people we surround ourselves with play a huge part in helping us discern who we are in God. So when those comments come rolling in (positive or negative), we can feel confident in keeping them in perspective. But how do we know who our foes, fans, and friends are?
I think it’s easy to pick out the foes in our life. They’re the people offering suggestions on making everything you do better or taking credit for your ideas as a way to get ahead themselves; the in-law critiquing your parenting skills, or the person in ministry who complains about your leadership ideas. The individual who is kind, then cold (usually acknowledging you only when they want to be in the center of your drama). They’re the people we will find easy to walk away from but that’s not necessarily the path God wants us to take.
God places “thorny” people in our lives to refine us. They’re there for a time and purpose to help us grow. God may be directing us towards them for a purpose or showing us why we must walk away.
So how do we deal with those “thorny” people in our lives? First, I think we have to bring it to God. He can take it. Tell Him just how angry that person makes you and how awful their words or actions make you feel. Point out where you’re struggling with the situation and ask God to reveal to you any part that you may play in their response.
The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is a perfect example of leadership that hurts. Here Moses was, pulled into a situation that he didn’t ask for, but for love of God, was obedient and embraced the leadership position. The Israelites complained, were jealous, and in frustration did things their own way, ignoring Moses’ calling. Yet Moses interceded for them just the same.
Responding to nastiness with love and respect isn’t easy. However, it is what we are called to do as Christians. What we learn from the experience of obedience will always be a place of growth and may sometimes be a message to walk away. We can walk away and still be kind and respectful to those thorny people in our lives.
Fans are not always as easy to pick out. These people may be the result of a lifetime of patterns in how and who we choose to be involved. Perhaps it’s where the “cool kids” hang out, or who is most popular. Maybe it’s a place we find our ego stroked.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Prov 27:6)
Proverbs 27:6 point this out stating that those who speak God’s truth in love, pointing out our weakness and sin, care far more for us. They’re willing to risk wounding us to keep us close to God. Those who flatter us or show us outward attention, “kisses,” usually do so with selfish hearts, gleaning what is only good for them.
Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor 15:33)
It’s important for us to be mindful of those we form relationships with and their worldly morals. The amount of time spent in these relationships can lead us to engage in their behaviors (anger, gossip, jealousy, prejudice, bad language) and before you know it we are no longer of Christ but of the world. Discerning our relationships with our fans will help us to know whom to let go of.
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Eph 5:18-19
We are a communal people, meant to share our lives with others. But how can we be sure we are forming relationships that will point us to Christ? Here are a few qualities to look for straight from scripture.
Godly friends encourage us –
Therefore encourage one another, and build one another up. (1Thes: 5:11)
Let’s be honest, we can all become a little lazy in this area. Encouragement is giving someone a bigger vision of why their obedience matters in God’s kingdom.
Let us consider how to stimulate one another toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24)
Godly friends support us –
If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. Ecc 4:10
Those who bear our burdens and support us in our moments of weakness are good listeners, offer practical assistance to lighten the load, and never leave our side.
Godly friends expose our sin that keeps us from God –
Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit (Gal 6:1)
We all need friends who are willing to point out our weaknesses and sin; see the things we may not be able to see. These are the friends who keep us accountable to God; speaking to us out of pure love and kindness.
Godly friends pray for us and intercede for us before God –
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5
Through prayer, we can bring our friends to the Father, asking Him to do big things in their lives, and boldness to pray for themselves.
Friend, if you’re in a place where you are discerning between opinions and dominions, ask yourself if those whom we allow to influence our lives have the qualities above. I’m learning to siphon out the opinion police from my real friends; seeking the counsel of people who care about me and the work I’m doing and not those who just want to ride the drama train. I surround myself with people who love me deeply, despite my shortcomings. They are those who will point out those shortcomings but aren’t afraid to gently share the hard things I need to hear. Those who bring me joy and draw out the good in me, make me a better person. And those who celebrate my successes and hold my hand in my defeats.
I should also mention that not all of my friends are Catholic, nor are they Christian. I marvel at the diversity of the friends I have; high school friends, forever friends, long-distance friends, even online friends. Each one reveals a different part of me. Many of them I only see once or twice a year. This is the case with one very special group of women. A few of us raised our children together. We saw each other on a regular basis. As the kids grew, we became online friends with no face to face contact at all. Then we met at a Women’s Retreat a few years back. We’ve shared so much more than the lives of our children. We shared our Catholic faith, our motherhood, our womanhood, and most precious, our sisterhood. These are women who help me refocus, keep me accountable, and are there when I can’t get out of my own way! They remind me to place faith over feelings, pointing me to the only opinion that truly matters – God’s!