Accusations Abound

A friend called to ask advice over an incident that occurred. I listened carefully, then I laughed because what do you do other than laugh? The story went like this. My friend has three dogs. As with most pet owners they are indoor/outdoor dogs and at any given moment they can be inside or outside.

The neighbor children took to daring each other to climb over the fence into my friend’s yard to see what the dogs would do. My friend’s dog’s are trained and friendly but they are dogs and therefore can react differently than anticipated if they feel threatened. My friend happened to be home to see the children climb over into her yard and her dogs, fortunately reacted accordingly without barking or acting aggressively.

Upon further thought, she walked over to the neighbor’s home and politely told the mother about the incident telling her that her dogs were trained but that dogs react differently under pressure and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The mother became angry and said that these dogs “better not” bite her children. Rather than apologizing for her trespassing children she went into accusation mode. My friend shouldn’t have dogs if they are going to hurt children. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well. The mother told my friend she would call the police because her dogs were dangerous.

What do you do when there is no foundation for an accusation? I remember a similar incident when we had our cat Joy who passed away of old age a few years ago. A neighbor came to my door and said that my cat was getting the other cats pregnant on our block and I needed to do something about it. She knew this because the kittens looked like my cat she explained. I assured her that it was not my cat as my cat was female and spayed. She shouted, “Are you sure because these kittens sure look like your cat?” Believe me I am sure.

One of the 10 Commandments is that you should not lie about your neighbor. I know these sets of basic human decency boundaries are considered outdated but they still hold true today for a civilized society. How do we hold to tenants that no longer apply? For those of us in Christ the bearing of false witness is a real thing. In a world where the media reports and then fact checks later it can get confusing as to what is right and what is wrong. Friends, don’t be deceived. We will give an account to God for every word that proceeds from our mouth. In a culture where truth isn’t valued it will be important to keep yourself clean of these types of infractions. Instead keep your peace. The accusations being thrown about are truly not your concern and don’t add a minute to your day.

My advice to my friend? Guard your pearls. Matthew 7:6

Manipulation

Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. Whether it’s the sculpture you made in art class or how you convinced your friend to do your homework — both are considered manipulation.

 

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This week after having a way over the top reaction to manipulation, I kept this question in front of me:

“Why does manipulation make you so angry?”

Knowing that anger generally masks a primary emotion I examined myself. This morning as I was going through my chores doing the laundry and I realized that manipulation feeds on an unresolved need or desire. It is predator characteristic and it preys on the ones who are non-confrontational, or people pleasers. The moment I see it I get out of its way because I know its damage first hand.

Do we recognize it? 

When manipulation knocks on your door do you see it, smell it, hear it? Or do you cower to it? No one can manipulate you without your consent. So how does manipulation work? Have you ever had someone come and say these things to you?

“I’ll just go away. Obviously, I’m too much of a bother. I have done a lot for you but you have your own life now, and you’ll never have to hear from me again!”

These people get the academy award for emotional manipulation because they are a master of their craft.  You have to either confirm their statement or backtrack. When push comes to shove most people backtrack.

“No matter how much I try to get ahead, something always knocks me down and I know people are tired of helping me, but they don’t understand that life has been hard since (and you can fill in the blank of what tragedy has fallen upon them)”

Be it a death of loved one, an unfulfilled marriage, a loss of job, or whatever else they deem the stopping point of their life, it is now somehow on you to fix it. Social media makes this manipulation tactic extremely helpful as they will post their latest dilemma and then a shout out to their loss.

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“I know I said that, did that, but you don’t know what was said to me, and I don’t want to burden you with it. Never mind, I’ll take the fall for what you consider bad behavior. I always do.” 

Victim thinking and the hint of a bigger picture can keep us in manipulation’s hand.

“You’re not going to help me? Don’t you go to church? Do you think that’s the way a Christian should behave? Aren’t you being judgmental?” 

This is one I have heard a lot. As if a spiritual walks makes it necessary to give up your common sense.

“I know this puts you in a bad position but I think if you do this God will honor you for it.” 

Do you hear this person? They are actually telling you they are putting you in harm’s way and hoping God intervenes on your behalf.

“My tribe always shows up when I need them. We always have each others back and we love deep.” 

Basically, if you want to be one of us you have to conform to how we do things. We move together and if you have an opposing view or decide not to follow then you’re out of the tribe.

“You’re tired? I’m exhausted. You have no idea what I go through.”

This either puts you in defense mode or makes you feel petty for having an emotion. This too is emotional manipulation.

“<sigh> I have been putting so many hours into helping you. I don’t understand why we have to do all of this. <groan> I wish I would have known what I was getting myself into. <ha!> I am not complaining, of course I want to help you silly, don’t be so sensitive!” 

This person is the martyr. They work so hard and so tirelessly and you don’t acknowledge what they do for you. Then they make you feel like you’re insane for asking if they don’t want to do it.

So why does it make me angry? I realized this week that when I question the insanity of a manipulative person out loud that I feel shame. I should be a kind, compassionate, a willing to help person. Instead I feel hurt, resentful, and frustrated at what they are doing to others. These aren’t emotions that are becoming to anyone, and I don’t like to see these emotions in myself.

What can I do to get healthy in this arena? I can be mindful of the true needs of others in my life. I can ask myself if the person is truly experiencing a need or are they merely trying to make their problem my problem? Will this be a one-time help or is this a pattern of ongoing mismanagement of life? Are they making others responsible for their poor lifestyle choices and if so is it any of my business and I would have to say no. I want to shout, “You’re being manipulated!”, but what does that solve?

Today I realized my anger came from my assumption that if I don’t speak out then I’m an awful person. When I sat down and truly examined my feelings, I realized wisdom and discernment and saying no is not bad. I am mindful of what I help with and I am not one to nurse dysfunction and I think that is a good trait.

What about you? Do you fall for manipulation or do you recognize it? When you know you are being manipulated do you get resentful or do you just say yes to keep the peace and continue to keep the feeling of being adored? What are you going to do to get healthy?

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Coming Out?

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That’s the problem with the Pounce and Flounce isn’t it? We make definitive statements for drama’s effect only to have it boomerang.

To the significant other: “I’m leaving!”, when we know we aren’t going anywhere for long.

To the family or friend: “You hurt me and I’m not coming back until you say sorry.” Then we take every opportunity to let everyone know why we are feuding, or worse we pretend innocence and point to how people hurt us.

To anyone that will listen: “I don’t know why I stayed this long.”

Or in other words,

“You can’t tell me what to do.” 

To the Authority Figure: “Well if you’re going to do that then I’m not participating.”

Then we walk out as if we’re a commanding general who just won a war. We Pounce on the person and Flounce away to show them. Show them what though? Show them that we are masters at manipulation. This is the adult version of the two year-old trantrum being played out. 

When the trantrum is over and we calm down, and want/need, to come back, now we either have to apologize or have that awkward thing of the pounce and flounce between us that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes we pretend nothing happened. Sometimes we are violent slanderers, sometimes we are silent stew-ers, sometimes we play injured party accepting no responsibility and pointing fingers or worse we act as if all of this is so beneath us and we don’t care a bit about it in retaliation.

If we do it often enough, and with Social Media, we certainly have an easy platform, we develop a reputation of histrionics where people ignore our high drama. We become unsafe because others never know when it will turn on them and they will be the object of the next post.

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You see whatever is in our hearts comes spilling out. Now that we have a world wide platform people get to see who we really are. Hey, I’m not immune to cringe-worthy posts either. I’m not ashamed to take down posts that  I have posted which turn negative. It is not beneath me to just say no and sorry to something which may inflame people I care about.

Recently our church had 21 Days Of Prayer where prayers were written on cards and then each night we gathered together to pray for each card. There were incredible testimonies of breakthrough, miracles of healing, and in the midst of the profound and sacred some took the opportunity of prayer to chastise another. I called it the pounce and flounce of prayer. The violence of this action shows the power of our world today in which we can hide behind words not spoken face to face. Cowardly at best, the pounce and flounce has taken on new levels. The cards were quickly plucked from the pile and shredded. The Bible says that what is in the heart comes out and I wonder as believers how we think this honors God? I wonder how I honor God?

Proverbs 21:2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

So while I examine my heart for impure motive, I urge you to take a walk through your heart and settle the issues that so quickly ensnare us into behavior that will never lead us to victory.

 

State Of Confusion

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As I have been watching events unfold I am looking curiously at the ramifications of revelation. While some ramifications are positive as it gets us to right our world some are negative as we watch the pendulum swing in the opposite direction causing an imbalance.

I heard a man say he saw a co-worker walk into the office and commented, “You look pretty today.” He then said he went to his office and immediately panicked. Is that sexual harassment? Would he be called into HR or worse a meeting with his boss? Could he be fired?

This is the negative ramification of the #METOO #CHURCHTOO movement. While it certainly is wisdom to check your comments and behavior, it is not right that an innocent comment can be taken out of context. I get it though. We’re all prickly over the abuse of women in the workplace. It went on far too long and although women had rights and were working equally as hard as a man in the workplace, this was an area of vulnerability. There are those men who make you feel uncomfortable with their remarks and then there are those guys who are work buddies who never cross the line into inappropriate boundaries, only in this climate how do we tell the difference?

Is it how it makes me feel or what was actually said? I saw an older man who was married with seven kids and one with whom I had never detected an ounce of inappropriateness lose his job before my eyes. He was walking out the door of our building carrying an armload of work supplies just as a woman was walking into the building. He stepped to the left to let her pass but she also stepped to her right to let him go through as his hands were full and they both ended up face to face on the opposite side of the door. They then simultaneously stepped in the opposite direction. It has probably happened to us all. He then laughed and said, “Shall we dance?”, which is a saying that people his age use when this happen, as he backed up and moved away to allow her to come through the door. The woman immediately went to her supervisor and said the man made her feel uncomfortable and he was fired on the spot. Did he say or do something inappropriate or was it a feeling she had?

I once reported a military officer for inappropriate comments to me and was told by his commander, “Susan, do you really want to cause problems or be a team player?” I found another job.

The question in our society is now what is appropriate for a man? The answer seems to be whatever women want it to be which is unfair. The rules are changing and there seems to be a state of confusion which only leads to further abuse and misunderstanding.

Should a man pay for a date or is that sexist and silently saying he doesn’t believe women are capable of paying for dates?

Should a man compliment a co-worker or is that sexual?

Can a man be proud that he can provide for his wife and allow her to stay home with their children or does he demean her by offering this option?

Here is some advice for what it is worth…..

Let the man pay for the date. While it may seem old-fashioned, if my need as a woman is security let me know up front that I am a priority, that I have been thought about, and that I have been worth planning for. If I’m honest, my husband and I each plan and pay for dates, okay, okay it comes from the same account but it’s that thought and preparation that is key.

“Hey, you look nice today”, is not sexual harassment. It’s a comment. An appropriate response is, “Thank you”, as you move about your day. There doesn’t need to be a discourse on how you bought your dress on clearance at Marshalls. A healthy man couldn’t care less, save that for your girlfriend, that comment isn’t a reportable offense. Now, if he comes and says, “Hey, you look nice today, why don’t you come into my office and let me see what’s under that dress”, then heck yes, report it. That is not a man, that is a male and there is a difference.

A man who can adequately provide for his family and can offer his wife the decision to stay home is admirable. I do not ascribe to the male who can’t adequately provide for his family so they are leeching off of everyone so that his wife can stay home. No one put a gun to their head to have family. You BOTH have a responsibility to provide for your family. If he works days, you can work nights but pay for your own kids. Alright, off topic sorry.  If he’s proud he can provide then good for him. It doesn’t make him a caveman, or abusive. It makes him a man and that’s a great thing. The male who demands his wife stays home has work to do.

Let’s get back to a place where we celebrate each other, we call each other on truly bad things, and we don’t look for offense in every gesture or comment.

 

 

What If We Didn’t?

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There used to be a day when we had Polaroid Cameras. We snapped a picture, and out popped a black image framed by white paper that within a few minutes time turned into a picture before our eyes. They were candid shots. There was no delete and do-over, film cost money and you only got a limited amount of film. They were real.

Now we practice selfies. We can take a hundred pictures until we get it right and we practice angles, and we practice lighting, and we watch make-up tutorials, and then we pretend this was a candid shot and that we look this way all of the time. It’s completely fake.

When I was four, my father lifted me into his arms and we went into the den. My mom, my baby brother, and our nanny were sitting in the den and my dad said, “Remember this, you’re watching history.” I sat on the floor as we watched the first man walk on the moon. I don’t know if this is where it started but throughout my entire life I have memorized moments. Pictures can fade but memories are what life is made of.

What if we played with our children and didn’t post about it?

What if we drank coffee and didn’t advertise the fact that we did?

What if our ordinary daily lives were lived not in an underlying need to be seen and thought of as good but just to be who we are?

What if we got real and didn’t protest the opinion of others and instead embraced their right to feel differently?

Would the need for comparison end?

What if we just didn’t participate?

What if we checked out facts before posting our agenda?

Would polite conversations be had face to face?

What if we told the truth?

What if we stopped living to one-up our neighbor?

What if we stopped having wars on social media?

Would we stop having wars in the street?

 

 

 

When You Say Nothing At All

 

Opinionnoun – a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

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In the world of ministry, as in the political arena I suppose, your own voice becomes not your own but rather you must decide and calculate, what the cost or gain will be to actually have an opinion on something. There is a unmerciful machine that rages forward and unforgiving attitudes still prevail. Just ask Rob Bell or Jen Hatmaker two Christians who dared have opinions in our world. Books, endorsements, and speaking engagements were pulled immediately. The idea of keeping a public page on Facebook and a private page of Facebook or just getting off of social media completely is in full force. Ask people privately what they think and get a view of people who are deciding that in order to speak to everyone you can offend no one.

So I stopped writing about controversies because I didn’t want controversy in my life. I    wanted to speak to everyone about anything. I wanted to hear opinions and views that weren’t my own because that is where I either solidify my view or see a perspective I    had not seen before and thereby change my mind.

Only that goes completely against who I am. I sat as a small child at the dinner table and discussed politics and world  views with my parents. In fourth grade I wrote to President Gerald Ford and I received an answer. I don’t have an opinion because I’m a Christian, or a pastor, or a woman. I have an opinion because I have a brain who is forever learning and wants to be challenged.

“But you’re going to have to minister to people who don’t share your view and they won’t be able to receive from you because of it.”

WHY? Because we can no longer tolerate an opinion that isn’t ours. We’ve become so engrained to think that if they do not think or do things as we do then they are against us. They aren’t of our tribe so therefore they are out.

Luke 9: 49John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” ESV

Mark 9:38“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. NIV

Only here’s the thing: When we say nothing we say much. While quiet observation serves while opinions are formed there are also two camps forming, those who think you are with them and those who think you are against them. Ultimately this is really not about you. It’s internal strife turned outward. It’s intolerance. Sadly, it’s prevailing in America.

What would you say if opinions truly mattered and we were really a free people?

 

But She’s The Bride

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I just read another social media rant about what is wrong with the church. As a follower of Christ it makes me sad. Is she perfect this church of ours? No, she is far from perfect. However she is my neighbor, she is my sister, my brother, she is ME. So when you talk about her, when you disparage her, you are talking about me, you are talking about my family, and maybe you are talking about yourself.

Here is what I know for sure. She is the vehicle in which Christ chose to move his message forward. He could have picked any number of things, he is God and God doesn’t lack resources. So for better or worse, in her glorious imperfection she is here to stay. She is the only thing that will last when all is said and done. She is the one that the Lord said the gates of hell shall not prevail against, and most importantly she is the one for whom he returns to take home with him.

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You see, finding fault with her is a cheap shot. It’s too easy. She’s human and therefore fallible but finding the solution and putting your hand to the plow is the work. The harvest of beauty is there and plentiful. Are you willing to get messy? Are you willing to be a laborer or will you continue to be a critic? A critic is someone who determines the value of something and usually decides it is not good. Only that doesn’t work for the church. Because if we are saying she isn’t good then what we are saying is God chose the wrong way in which to express himself.  He made a mistake and I don’t think he did. It’s especially harmful coming from ministry leaders. They are in the wrong profession and confession when they are critical of the very thing they profess to give their life for. Let’s love her through the process of becoming. Let’s come up with solutions to the problems we see. Let’s love her to wholeness.