HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 14, 2017)

How to handle toxic people - Abidan ShahMy last article, “How To Handle Toxic People,” drew more responses than any of my pervious articles! Evidently, it touched a nerve and God used it to meet a real need. Thank you for all the words of appreciation! Some of you raised a question that I feel the answer may benefit others as well – “Daily we go through minor toxic encounters that leave us feeling upset to one degree or another. Does that mean that for each of those incidents we have to go through the same process of praying for 20 days until we are free of the toxin?” Of course not. Toxic people and minor toxic encounters are two different things. The first are individuals who perpetually cause us to feel miserable and the second are chance happenings that inject just enough toxin in us to ruin our spirit. Although the latter are not as harmful as the former, don’t assume that they are completely harmless. If left untreated, those emotional fender-benders can cause us to ruin others’ spirits as well. Let me explain below.

Imagine several scenarios: a kid at the drive-thru messes up your order; someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone fails to thank you for your hard work on some project; and you wave at a friend who doesn’t wave back with the same energy. Or, how about the big one: You put a post on Facebook that you think should go viral and only 3 people like it…What do you do next? Each of those encounters have the potential to initiate an unhealthy conversation within you. For the kid at the drive-thru: “Kids these days are so disrespectful.” For the person who cut you off: “I hope he/she gets caught.” For the friend who didn’t seem that excited to see you: “I’m looking the other way next time.” For those who failed to appreciate your hard work: “I am not appreciated.” And yes, for Facebook, one of those: “If you are my true friend, you’ll comment below and repost.” Such negative self-talk will surely ruin your attitude and keep you from living up to your potential. Unfortunately, such unhealthy conversations don’t stay locked inside for long. Sooner or later they spill over on to the unsuspecting individuals in your lives. In other words, your quest for justice will not rest until someone is convicted, sentenced, or punished. Since you cannot prosecute the original perpetrators, you will substitute those innocent, weak, and docile individuals in your life. Your kids, your husband, your wife, your church family, your neighbor, and your best friend will pay for a crime they did not commit.

What is the solution? First, recognize when your spiritual equilibrium has been disturbed. In other words, acknowledge the gnawing feeling that some wrong may have been committed against you. Second, immediately take charge of your internal conversation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” A runaway thought is like a runaway train. There will be casualties. Third, refrain from judging the motives of others. 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” Ultimately, only God knows the true intents of each human heart. Fourth, pray for that individual. Nothing will neutralize hate and anger faster than sincere prayer. Follow the example of our Savior: Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Don’t misunderstand. There may be situations where more than prayer is called for but there’s a big difference between restitution and retaliation. Fifth, practice the lost art of the unsent angry letter. Abraham Lincoln would often write his “hot letter” but postpone sending it until he had cooled down. He never sent most of them.

 

When Someone Offends You

WHEN SOMEONE OFFENDS YOU by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whensomeoneoffendsyouIntroduction: This weekend we are back in our series on the Sermon on the Mount. Many of y’all have told me how much you’ve missed this series! I have too. For those of you who may not know – about a year and a half ago we began a series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels. Many people have a very limited knowledge of the life of Jesus. We know a little about His birth, a couple of His sayings, a few of His miracles, and snippets about His death and resurrection but beyond that Jesus remains a mystery. We need to know Jesus. He is the very foundation of our faith! So far we’ve only reached halfway through the Sermon on the Mount. We do take breaks during special holidays. But, you can do the math – maybe in 4-5 years we may get through all the parables and miracles! Today’s message is from Matthew 5 titled – “When Someone Offends You.”

Matthew 5   38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is the 5th antithesis that Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount – “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” In the previous 4 antitheses (go back and listen or watch them), Jesus told His listeners that He did not come to destroy the Law or abrogate the Law but to fulfill the Law and go beyond the Law. He came to raise the bar of righteousness. In others words, Jesus was saying, “Following Me will not absolve, exempt, or release you from obeying God’s commandments. In fact, it’s going to be tougher. The standards will be higher.”

Turn the other cheek

Turn the other cheek

Today’s message is a tough one. John Stott called it “the most admired and the most resented part” of the Sermon on the Mount. Listen again – 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. I don’t know about you but immediately I think of ISIS or the terrorists or some armed robber or rapist or child molester. Is Jesus telling us to sit back and let evil people run over us? Does being a Christian means being a coward, a wimp, or a pushover? Absolutely not. This passage is not about bombing terrorist hideouts and fighting back when someone threatens your life and family. This passage is about how you respond when someone offends you and tries to take advantage of your kindness.

Question: Are you a “tit for tat” kind of person? Have you ever held a grudge against someone for offending you or taking advantage of your kindness? Do you like to say things like – “You don’t know who you’re messing with”? Are you a Spirit-led person or a self-led person? Because without the Holy Spirit you cannot do this. Are you saved?

Jesus gives 4 scenarios on how to respond when someone offends us. Let the Holy Spirit begin to soften your hearts and make you more and more like Christ.

I. WHEN SOMEONE HUMILIATES YOU

39 “…But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Background: Some people have tried to argue – “if someone were to slap you on the right cheek, it meant that they were more than likely using their right hand. This means that they were slapping you with the back of their hand. This was considered far more insulting.” There is some truth to that in the Mishnah (Jewish Oral Tradition) where it prescribes that if someone slapped you they would have to pay 200 zuz but if they slapped you with the back of their hand, they must pay 400 zuz. But I don’t think Jesus was trying to make it this complicated. The real point of this scenario is the insult of being slapped. Your face is you. It is very personal. Slapping someone’s face is slapping his or her identity. I think that being slapped is worse than being punched. Sure the punch may hurt far more but a slap in the face is an attack on your personhood. It is humiliating. That’s where we get the phrase – “slap in the face.”

The normal human response to insult is to insult back. You may have heard of Churchill and Lady Astor. They were always at each other. One time Lady Astor called Churchill “disgustingly drunk.” To which he replied – “Tomorrow morning I’ll be sober but you’ll still be ugly.” Another time – Lady Astor told Churchill – “If I was married to you, I would poison your tea.” To which he replied – “If I was married to you, I would drink it.” Most insults are not that witty and funny. They are quite painful and incite anger.

What Jesus is telling His disciples is this – “When someone insults you, don’t return insult for insult. If you do, then you are stooping to their level. Turn the other cheek.” This does not mean stick around and get some more insults or refuse to speak up. It simply means – refuse to insult back. There is far more dignity and strength in standing tall in the face of humiliation. By the way, Jesus didn’t just preach this. He also practiced it. In John 18 the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine but Jesus told him to ask those who had heard Him. At the point in verse 22 “…one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”

Application: How do you handle insults? Do you give tit for tat? Do you turn things over to God or do you stoop down to the level of their offender?

II. WHEN SOMEONE IS HEARTLESS TO YOU 

40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.

Chiton

Chiton

Himation

Himation

Background: If you think the last one was tough, this one is tougher. First of all, the tunic or “khiton” was an individual’s inner garment. It was a long or short-sleeved shirt that extended to the knees or ankles. The cloak or “himation,” on the other hand, was the outer garment. It was much more visible and very essential to keep you presentable and warm. In fact, according to the Old Testament, the coat could not be kept as a pledge overnight. In this scenario, someone is so mean that they would even take the very clothes off your back! What kind of a person would do something like this? Obviously, someone who is very inconsiderate! In this situation you can counter sue them for their inner garment and even win. Now they would be left naked.

Don’t misunderstand – This is not about clothes and there are times that you have to go to court and sue to retrieve what is rightfully yours. What Jesus is telling us here is – “Don’t return meanness for meanness. In fact, show them grace and mercy.” By the way, Jesus didn’t just preach this. He also practiced it. Matthew 27:35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”

Application: How do you handle inconsiderate people? Do you counter-attack or do you take it God? Many of us never give God the chance to show grace in our lives. Listen to Exodus 22 26 If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27 For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. Are you missing out on God’s grace in your life? 

III. WHEN SOMEONE IS HATEFUL TO YOU

41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.

Background: According to Roman law, the troops could order their Jewish subjects people to carry their luggage or supplies for them. If you remember, Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus because He couldn’t do it because of loss of blood. They could even seize their animals for personal use, sometimes never to return. The Roman soldiers often abused this right. Sometimes even the Roman rulers and the Senate had to reprimand their troops for abusing the locals. The reason they felt they could do this is because they looked down upon the Jewish people. Jesus definitely had this situation in mind. The word “mile” is a Latin tern for “one thousand paces.”

What Jesus is telling His listeners is – “He is mistreating you because he thinks he is better than you. Don’t stop at the first mile. Ask him if he needs help with the second mile.” Wow! By the way, Jesus didn’t just preach this. He also practiced it. On the night when Jesus was betrayed, Judas brought a great multitude with swords and clubs to the Garden of Gethsemane. At that point Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Listen to what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 26 52 “Put your sword in its place… 53 …do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? Then He healed Him.

Application: How do you deal with people who are condescending to you? How do you take it when someone talks down to you? Do you try to talk down to them or do you give your case over to God?

IV. WHEN SOMEONE HUSTLES YOU

42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Background: I think this is the toughest one. No one likes a fraud. No one likes to be deceived. I don’t think Jesus is telling us to encourage bad behaviour and bad habits. In this verse the person He has in mind is probably one who makes his living by begging from others. They can’t manage their finances. They can’t control their bad habits. They live off the generosity of others. Jesus tells us to give it and don’t turn away when they want to borrow from you.

This does not mean you need to hand your car keys to a drunk or your house keys to a thief or your bank account to some con. What it does mean is that when someone comes to you asking for a few bucks to buy a sandwich, don’t launch into a federal investigation. When someone says – “Can I borrow a few bucks to meet some need?” – don’t make them sign on the dotted line.

This whole section is under the heading – “You are the Salt of the Earth. You are the Light of the World.” This means that the only way this world will remain livable is when Christians refuse to get offended and show grace to those who are least deserving. The idea of gentlemen and gentle ladies is a Christian concept. In a world full of revenge, pay backs, and get even, only Christianity has the answer.

Definition of a Gentleman by Robert E. Lee – The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.”

Only through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit we can have such an attitude. Listen to I Peter 2 21 “…because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Are you saved?

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