Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Zapping the Zingers

Why is it that a person can receive numerous words of encouragement, love, and compliments throughout the week, but the comments that stick out are the negatives ones?!  Sadly, these course, brash, abrasive remarks, (A.K.A., "zingers"), do not only present themselves from strangers or enemies.  They are doled out to us at times via family or "friends" (I like to call them, "frenemies").  I do not profess to lay claim that I've never put my foot in my mouth or said things I didn't realize were hurtful to others.  But the remarks I am talking about here are the flat out rude, unwarranted, and cruel comments dealt to us, often repeatedly, by people who should know better--people who profess to love us.  People who know us and our weak spots well enough to fully realize that we are not going to appreciate their chosen remark(s).

In dealing with this problem repeatedly (typically with the same people), and discussing "zingers" with a couple of loyal, trustworthy friends, (as well as, with my husband, mother, daughter, and son-in-law, who happens to be in grad school studying Marriage & Family Therapy), I have come to solidify that the catalyst behind these hurtful comments is really one thing--jealousy.  When the "green-eyed monster" rears its ugly head, there's really no limit to what can fall from a person's lips in your direction.  It can catch you so off guard you can't even believe the person just said it.  You find yourself hypothesizing about what it would take for you to be able to toss similar words their direction, and quickly realize you would have to become some other person (it would take a great deal of personal misery, meanness, and anger to even come close to their behavior).  You also know that if you reciprocated their behavior back to them, they wouldn't take too kindly to it, either--it would perhaps even be, "the beginning of the end" of the relationship!  Essentially, it becomes quite clear that this person is infected with the jealousy virus.  They are trying to cure the pain from it by making you miserable, too.

Coupled with the jealousy, there is also a large source of discontentment in the life of the person who is dishing out the rude remarks.  But even then, the main issue is jealousy because discontentment is a close cousin to it--the two travel together consistently.  In fact, you can't have jealousy without discontentment.  If a person is grateful and content with what God has given them in life, there is no need or desire to be jealous.  But when they feel entitled to own another person's blessings or gifts, and discontent with their lot in life, that is when jealousy can become a serious issue.  You know when someone is dealing with this because what comes out of their mouth is what is in their mind and heart.  If they are throwing verbal nastiness your way, (and especially within areas you know they are jealous or struggling personally), you can bet that their mind and heart are in the gutter.  They are not living the abundant life in Christ with a heart of kindness, love, and thankfulness. Greed, discontentment, and self-absorption are ruling them.

So what does a verbally abused person do upon realizing someone in their life is infected with jealousy?  There are the obvious things--you can try to build them up by complimenting their abilities, blessings, and strengths.  You can refrain from over-talking about your own blessings, so as not to fuel their fire--especially in the areas you know they are jealous, comparing, lacking, or trying to compete with you.  You can shed light on joyful topics and say things that distract them from going to the negative. You can pray for them prior to spending time with them, asking God to come into their heart, and fill them with His love, thankfulness, and contentment.  You can pray for grace, love, and wisdom for yourself to know how to handle them.  You can then pray for God to show you for how long to deal with this issue (how long you should overlook it).  If doing all these things does not work, and much time passes with the same results, then it is probably best to follow the suggestions given in the Word and stay away from them as much as possible.  It is best to let God deal with them as He says He will.

Ephesians 5:3-7 states, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them."    So it is clear that if someone is ungrateful, jealous, and tossing course remarks your way (zingers or "course joking"), you have a right to stay away from them and keep yourself clear of their wrath.  I like to call this, "creating space."  If someone is poisoning you with the venom of their words, you need to run and stay away from them as much as possible.  Some would say you should and could use Matthew 18:15-17 on them, which states, 15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."  But I would argue that "zingers" are probably not worthy of the wrath you will face for pointing out their jealousy to them.  That is a decision you can pray about in order to derive wisdom from God.  But if you truly know the person and that they won't respond well to a Matthew 18 open discussion, it is best to just create some space.

Ephesians 4:29 states, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  Again, we see here that we are told to use our words ONLY for the edification of others (not to tear down, make fun of, or "put someone in their place").  No one could argue that doling out zingers is of benefit to the recipient.  Romans 14:19 says, "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."  This is another commandment that we are to edify and build-up others, not tear them down in order to build ourselves up.  You can find repeated commandments along these lines.  Obviously, the Good Lord knew we would need to be told this over and over again.  Apparently, the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me," doesn't really hold true.  No one really likes to be disrespected, made fun of, or attacked verbally--even people who profess to be tough-skinned.  That stuff rolls around your head and replays like a broken record, and it just flat steals your joy!  We can forgive others for their unkindness and we should--we are commanded to do so.  But we don't really ever forget the cruel things they say about us or to us.  We carry that stuff around like luggage!  

In order to combat that problem, we have to look to God to remind us who we are in Him.  We are His children, and when someone attacks us or tries to put us down, they are putting down a child of God.  He is not going to take kindly to that.  So we can feel sorry for the wrath they are about to face for their decision to spew venom our direction.  It feels as if these people think they can get away with a quick, simple "zinger"--no harm, no foul.  It especially feels this way when we just sit there and take it, not calling them out on it or reciprocating.  But God's Word clearly says to the contrary in Galatians 6:7-8, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."  So if they truly think they can get away with their hidden jealousy, they are mocking God.  Good luck with that.  God be with them if they keep plodding (and plotting) that path.  It won't be a pleasant one for them, guaranteed.  They will have to deal with the effects of their behavior from continuing to break trust with us (and more than likely, with others who they have also offended).  They will miss out on closer fellowship time and relationships because of their behavior.  We can also take some comfort knowing that they are already paying for the actions of their jealousy--what a miserable existence to be infected with something that God calls, "demonic," in His Word (see below).  

One of the best ways to protect ourselves from the effects of envy is to fill our lives with people who edify us--people who live grateful, truly loving, joyful existences in Christ.  We also need to shield ourselves from our own possible infection with envy by realizing we are all susceptible to it, and by maintaining a close walk of thankful fellowship with the Lord.  Last, we must keep ourselves guarded from spending too much time with others who are infected with envy--it is contagious, and it brings doom and gloom.  Just as the ol' song says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done."  We have much reason to be content.

Here are some other great Scriptures on jealousy:

James 3:14-15, "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic."

James 3:16, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice."

Galatians 5:19-21, "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." 

Proverbs 27:4, "Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?"

Proverbs 14:30, "A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot."

Exodus 20:17, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."