“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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