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Archive for the ‘How to live with toxic people’ Category

Nearly every day I check the “back pages” of my blogs, to see what search terms have been used for access and which entries are the most frequently read.  On Grace with Salt, I’m continually amazed.  The topics which get the bulk of visitors are things to do with toxic relationships—whether among family members, friends, or acquaintances.   Entries I wrote over two years ago are still widely read.  This touches my heart, as I realize that many people suffer and wonder how to manage when relationships go askew.

Whatever I have written in the past, on the subject of toxic acquaintances—Christian or otherwise—may be underscored and highlighted in RED, signifying the precious BLOOD of Jesus Christ.  This blood, shed for any and all who will believe, is the answer to every dilemma known to mankind.  To appropriate Christ’s shed blood to my life (along with immersing myself in God’s Word) is to guarantee peace of mind in the midst of anything that may happen to me. 

Through the shed blood, I am forgiven.  Through God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, I have the power to forgive, and I must forgive—even if I don’t “feel” forgiving!  I need to pray, “Lord, make me willing to be willing to forgive”. 

Through prayer and reading God’s Word I can obtain the wisdom to deal with whatever and whomever life may bring my way.  Toxic relationships threaten to destroy our peace of mind, but we need not let that happen.  If I’m guilty of undermining a relationship, I am to seek forgiveness—from God and from the person I have offended.  Having done this, I can go on praying—knowing that I’m right with my Lord.  If tension still exists in the troubled area, at least I have done all I can.  As a tennis player would say, “The ball is in the other court”.  Meanwhile, I must continue to pray!

If a relationship has been damaged due to another person, I can graciously reduce the time spent with this person (providing the individual is not someone who lives under my roof).  Firmness may be needed in backing off, but with lots of prayer I can be gracious as well as firm.  Perhaps a face to face (gracious) explanation is warranted—or a letter.  Every human is unique, and every circumstance is different.  Only God’s Word and prayer can sort out the answers and solutions to the issues we face.

The proverbial “bottom line” is forgiveness.  We have been forgiven, and we must forgive!  If we have done wrong, we need to beg for forgiveness.  It’s that simple, and it’s that profound!  The basis of our Christian life is Forgiveness!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012 

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“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”     Ephesians 4:32  (NIV)

How often do we reel and sting under the onslaught of personal attacks?!  The attacks can be major and tragic, or they can be petty and insiduous.  They can be viciously plotted or simply the result of human cluelessness—but attacks are inevitably wounding to some degree.  When attacked, we are tempted to harbor bitterness.  Anger and a vindictive spirit are a part of our fallen human DNA. 

Forgiving is the hardest thing we are commanded to do.  Yet we must forgive, as Christ forgave us.  Scripture is blatantly clear on this point.  We have no choice but to forgive.  Forgiveness can’t be faked.  Only in the power of the Indwelling Holy Spirit, can we humans forgive one another. 

More times than I can recall, I have agonized over pain inflicted by careless remarks or deliberately unkind treatment—either directed at someone I love, or at myself.  More times than I can recall, I’ve had to give this agony to the Lord and acknowledge that I simply can’t forgive—while yielding my anger and asking God to replace it with His forgiving love.

God never fails.  He will act!  As I confess my unforgiving spirit as sin, the Lord Jesus Christ does a profound work in my heart so that I actually do forgive—yet it is not me, but Christ forgiving through me.

Forgiving!  The hardest thing.  The impossible thing!  The thing that only God can do.  And that’s precisely what the Christian life is all about!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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” . . . looking diligently lest any man fail of the Grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled . . .”  Hebrews 12:15

Vinegar has many culinary uses, as celebrated by my collection of Victorian art glass cruets.  In the bygone days of glorious glassware, vinegar adorned every well-appointed table.  But except for cleaning coffee pots and washing windows, vinegar is useless without the gracious ingredients which make it palatable:  sugar, salt, pepper, tasty herbs, spices, and oil.  Certainly the bitterness of vinegar in a human spirit is nothing you would ever want to preserve in a gorgeous Victorian glass cruet! 

Trials in life are a given.  We all will have them at some time, and perhaps for most of the time we are here on earth.  What do we do with these trials?  How do we let them affect us?  We can choose to let the sweet oil of the Holy Spirit fill our lives and draw others to our Lord.  Or we can feed the destructive root of bitterness, the sour vinegar of those souls who doubt God’s wisdom in the details of their days.

I’m thankful that, while I was growing up, no one ever misled me to think that life would be easy.  I’m thankful for upbeat parents who valued life and made the most of all circumstances, refusing to turn bitter when jobs soured or troubles set in.  The old adage, “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade” is not just corny.  It’s wise!

Most of all, I’m thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ whom I have trusted for His sacrifice and my salvation, at Calvary.  He is risen!  He is alive!  His Spirit indwells those of us who have trusted Him, enabling us to let His light shine forth regardless of our circumstances!

When life hands us vinegar, we can choose to add those beautiful ingredients:  sugar, salt, pepper, tasty herbs, spices, and OIL—the oil of God’s Holy Spirit!  Then those around us will be edified, rather than defiled!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death, and to the other, the fragrance of life.”  2nd Corinthians 2:15 NIV

Positionally, we who belong to Christ will always belong.  We have a beautiful future!  But it’s getting hard to find Christians (and churches) willing to focus on Christ and the literal Scriptures alone, rather than try to blend into the world.

I’m tired of hearing Christians say, “I have to look (and talk and act) like the world so that people will see me and consider the Gospel.”  That is hogwash!  How can blending into an existential, me-focused culture ever reach people who are lost in that culture?  How can compromising on the literal truth of Scripture create anything but confusion?

Embracing error is never loving!  Neither is lowering our standards in the hope of being hip and trendy.  When we truly care for others, we will desire to stand firmly on God’s word and model God’s standards—backed by His love and genuine concern for the welfare of others.  Scriptural compromise can only spread chaos and detract from the Gospel of love! 

Yet in today’s culture those of us who stand firmly on a literal Scripture are labeled “trite and shallow”—even by some of our fellow believers—while those who court the world’s approval are touted as “deep and profound”.  Those who claim to be profound are an esoteric lot.  But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not esoteric.  It’s for any and all who will hear and believe! 

God’s aroma can only come from being filled with His Word and allowing the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ to live His life through us.  The Christian life is all about Him, while the world’s life is all about “me”. 

Years ago, Oswald Chambers succinctly stated the snare of thinking oneself more profound than others in MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST.  Chambers wrote:  “It is not your devotion to God that makes you refuse to be shallow, but your wish to impress other people with the fact that you are not shallow, which is a sure sign that you are a spiritual prig . . . . Beware of posing as a profound person.  God became a baby.

“Determine to take no one seriously but God, and the first person you find you will have to leave severely alone as the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.”  Oswald Chambers, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHTEST.

The Bible clearly states that when we think we stand, we will probably fall!  God hates my pride and I can look only to Him for righteousness and reality.

The sweet fragrance of life is classic.  It predates the creation of the world.  The aroma of Christ is never hip and trendy!  We cannot exude God’s sweet fragrance when we think, act, and talk like the cynical, degenerate, pseudo-profound world around us!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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“Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you perceive not in him the lips of knowledge.”  Proverbs 14:7

“Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.”  Proverbs 16:22

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them.”  Romans 16:17

Scripture clearly states that we are to avoid purveyors of false doctrine when these people cause dissension and division in our midst.  To mark and avoid deliberate trouble makers is a given when perverse doctrine prevails and destructive behavior is obvous.

Less easy to mark and avoid are those who are doctrinely sound, yet clueless when it comes to relating to others in an edifying manner.  

A great shock in my Christian life has been to discover that some Christians are far more rude and discouraging to be around than my many non-Christian friends!  Rude Christians are not always easy to spot at first encounter, as they can excel in dispensing flattery—and they often have bouncy, animated spirits.  They are gifted in the art of buttering people up in order to use them.

Since I was raised to always be kind and gracious in response to others, I have personally had a terrible time learning to mark and avoid the users.  Shouldn’t we Christians who are blessed with abundant life be ever-available to “needy people”?  Shouldn’t we be willing to listen to the woes of our fellow believers, and to offer encouragent whenever possible?  YES AND NO!  

YES, when those to whom we minister respond with an earnest desire to stop complaining and change their attitudes. 

YES, when the “needy people” stop talking about themselves and their family problems (at least for some of the time!) and instead purpose to immerse themselves in creative pastimes, hobbies, and interests.

YES, when the needy individual begins to listen as much as she talks while realizing that there are other people on the face of the earth with issues and problems far greater than her own!

NO, when we find ourselves being used for decades, as a garbage pit for another person’s ongoing soap-opera style life saga and mental attitude of discontent. 

NO, when the person we are trying to help never bothers to realize that we also have a life. 

NO, when our words of encouragement and life wisdom are continually ignored and never acted upon.  

NO, when the individual with whom we are working shows nothing but rude manners, year after year—talking without listening and acting as if our time was automatically hers to invade. 

NO, when the “friend” in question reduces us to a jelly with her self-focused, non-stop chatter—to a point where we want to run and hide in the woods when she emails that she will be “dropping in” for a “visit” the next day.

The person who talks about herself and her issues ad nauseum, but never pauses to listen assiduously to another person, is RUDE!  The person who believes that she is the only one in the world with issues that need to be aired is RUDE

The person who drops in univited in order to “update” us on all the events in her life, without any concern for whom we are or what we may be experiencing is RUDE

Unfortunately, rude people are frequently so befuddled that it’s impossible to shake them and wake them out of their self-focused orientation.  There is no way to address their lack of consideration in polite and tactful ways—because there is nothing polite or tactful about these people.  They just don’t “get it”! 

Only God, who works from the inside out, can change a self-centered individual who consistently disregards those around her.  We think we may be “helping” by continuing to hang out with such a person, but in essence our friendship only enables the rude behavior to continue. 

When our prayers and subtle suggestions fail time and again, we finally realize that there is nothing more we can do.  We must follow the Scriptural injunction to “Mark and Avoid”.

To the clueless person, our decision to mark and avoid is undoubtedly seen as “rudeness”.  Although we continue to pray, we have suddenly withdrawn our physical presence.  We will no longer listen to year after year of her personal discontent and never-ending family woes. 

We all have our own woes, but many of us choose not to constantly burden others by dumping on them!  After years of trying to make a difference in a needy person’s life, sometimes we need to mark and avoid the rude individual so that we will no longer serve as a receptacle for her endless output of self-pity and complaints. 

When we mark and avoid, the rude person will have to take her sewage elsewhere—hopefully to the Lord.  Indeed, the person who lives and breathes in constant recognition of God’s presence is actually in moment-by-moment communication with Him.  When we unburden our souls to the Lord, we are less inclined to use other people by endlessly dumping our sewage on them!

It can be agonizing to realize that we must mark and avoid another person.  Avoiding a “friend” seems drastically severe to those of us who want to be gracious and kind!  But there are times when it does no good to be sweet!  If the chronically inconsiderate person doesn’t perceive subtle hints about her atrocious manners and destructive behavior, then we have to be blunt. 

We can only “help” the chronically rude individual by getting out of the way so God can work.  Sometimes the best help in the world is no help at all, humanly speaking!

©Margaret L. Been

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I LOVE the color GREEN!  To me it represents gardens, the wild woods in summer, refreshment, relaxation, most everything good!  As a soapmaker, I make a lot of green soap with olive oil, palm oil, and green pigment.  The result?  A clone of that fine old favorite, Palm Olive®.  My husband grew up with Palm Olive soap, so he’s pleased with my version—which is better for face and body than the commercial stuff, because home-made soap is all natural!

Yes, I love the word “green”—except when used in reference to a liberal political agenda.  Yet there is another less-than-wonderful implication of green—one that recently came to mind as I was reflecting on issues of human relationships:  green as in “green-eyed”.

Here are some gleanings from from http://www.phrases.org.uk –

 GREEN-EYED

Meaning:  Envy

Origin:  Green is a colour associated with sickness, possibly because people’s skin takes on a slightly yellow/green tinge when they are seriously ill. Green is also the colour of many unripe foods that cause stomach pains. 

The phrase was used by, and possibly coined by, Shakespeare to denote jealousy, in The Merchant of Venice, 1596:

Portia:
How all the other passions fleet to air,
As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,
And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy! O love,
Be moderate; allay thy ecstasy,
In measure rein thy joy; scant this excess.
I feel too much thy blessing: make it less,
For fear I surfeit.

In Othello, 1604, Shakespeare also alludes to cats as green-eyed monsters in the way that they play with mice before killing them.

Iago:
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!

The old bard never failed to hit human nature on its proverbial head!  I confess to having had green eyes now and then over the years, but only when I thought some woman was having goo-goo eyes over my husband!  The tragic illustration provided by OTHELLO should serve as a warning flare to all who love their mates!

But it most certainly has never occurred to me to be envious in terms of disliking another person because she had something I didn’t have, or was something that I was not!  I was born with the contentment gene, and raised by contented parents.  I cannot begin to comprehend the mentality of green-eyed discontent!

The issue of toxic people and relationships has surfaced recently, in online as well as personal discussions.  Many fellow Christians are puzzled and “at a loss” as to how to deal with toxicity—since we are commanded to love and forgive.  The practical “how to” involved in loving and forgiving is always a challenge.

While, reading, listening, and reflecting it has occurred to me that green eyes may often be a major element in the chemistry of a toxic relationship—far more frequently than my naive, contented nature has ever imagined in the past!

In my humanity, I have no answers for toxicity in human relationships, except to zealously (not jealously!) guard my own heart attitudes and fortify every day with prayer and Scriptures.  I cannot change the green-eyed people, and I cannot change the world.  I can only live moment by moment, resting in the ONE who can and does change hearts!

Meanwhile, I desire to appropriate the wisdom and grace of the indwelling Lord Jesus so that I can respond Biblically (as well as “survive” spiritually and emotionally!) when faced with a toxic individual–especially one who might possibly have green eyes!  

©2010, Margaret L. Been

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“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed . . . .”  Proverbs 31:25-28a

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of listening over teacups.  I would never call myself a “counselor” because that would be presumptuous.  God is the Counselor.  I listen, pray, and ache inside over heart-rending histories of mothers who have been hurt by their children.

When we mothers love our children, devote many years of our life to them, and do our best to nurture and guide them, someday these children will arise and call us blessed—at least many of them will. 

But when it comes to sharing the happier memories, some children may choose to remain seated!  For every given number of adult children who actually sing the praises of their mother, there can be one who simply will not

For all the years when that mother gently stroked her young child’s head and dried her tears with comforting words, a daughter may only refer back to those times when Mother “yelled”.  (Firm speech on the part of a parent is normally interpreted by the child as “yelling”.)

For all the times when mother and child enjoyed each other’s company and lived “in sync”, some adult children will only focus on times of disagreement and/or conflict—reiterating those occasions when the parent had to maintain a firm position of “NO, for the edification of the child (or to preserve the parent’s sanity)!

Integral in the ongoing drama of mother and child is the word “CHILD”.  The “children” who arise up and call their mother “blessed” are really no longer children.  They have matured.  Life has finally “happened” to them, and they understand that our time on earth is rarely “easy”.  They realize that their parents’ lives were not always easy—and perhaps very hard in terms of difficult relationships or circumstances.

Mature sons and daughters have thought deeply and sensitively enough to know that no human on earth is ever perfect.  Mature sons and daughters realize that they themselves are not even perfect, although it served their egos as immature youngsters to fantasize that their mothers were being terribly unfair—when those moms were simply doing their job to the best of their human ability amid the myriad, ongoing stresses of parenting! 

Thus, I listen over teacups—grieving for the mothers who hurt, and identifying with them in their sorrow.  I try to encourage those who hurt, by assuring them that they are not alone.  God understands their pain, and so do I—from my own experience as a mom! 

Over teacups, I share my belief that mothers may always feel more pain than anyone else on earth.  Why?  Because mothers are the NUMBER ONE SAFE TARGET.  No matter what a child does, says, or carelessly flings at his or her mother, THE MOTHER WILL ALWAYS BE THE MOTHER! 

A mother will weep in private and sometimes raise her voice publically in desperation, protest, or anger.  She may even melt down.  Yet, assuming she loves her children as most of us do, a mother will never defect!

Over teacups, I remind hurting mothers that those of us “in Christ” are literally indwelt by the LIVING LORD!  II Corinthians 4:10 declares that “. . . we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.” 

When we belong to the Lord, we mothers are vessels for His dying and His life.  He is our Strength and Dignity.  We can laugh at the days to come!  :)

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Emerson’s words come back to me nearly every day, especially now that Joe and I are no longer living in the solitude of the northwoods.  According to Scripture, we Christians are to be in the world, yet not of it.  Since most of us cannot dwell physically apart from society forever, and cannot always escape to the wilderness to renew our inner fortitude, we must learn to carry that solitude deep within our souls—in the midst of society.  The balancing act delineated by Emerson in the above quote is essential to the survival of one’s soul.

Only one lifestyle enables me to maintain the independence of solitude with perfect sweetness:  that of realizing the presence of the Lord Jesus in every waking moment.  Inner solitude and sweetness can only be achieved by resting in Him, knowing He is in me, soaking up His Word, confessing my sins, and yielding my frustrations to Him in prayer. 

My soul’s health requires that I live in a spirit of worship—praising God for whom He is, acknowledging His attributes, and rejoicing in the fact that He is in control.  True “independence” is God-dependence.  The Lord enables us to keep the independence of solitude with perfect sweetness, even in the midst of society.

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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