Mean people . . . We’ve all known a few (or maybe a lot), and we’ve all been one, too. No exceptions. None . . . . Self protection has something to do with it; so does jealousy and anger, but so does just being mean because we choose to be or follow a crowd that is being mean to others. I’ve always said that I don’t understand mean people, but then I’ve said mean things about people who were mean to me behind my back or to my face to my friends because I was hurt or angry.
It’s an ugly cycle that never ends and it’s everywhere–churches, workplaces, at home, schools, bars, bedrooms, in politics/government, high places, low places, any place–you-name-it, it’s there . . . from passive/aggressive behavior to sociopaths; from hidden designs to in-your-face ugly. We say we love people with our fingers crossed behind our backs. And it all got started back with Cain and Abel (see Genesis 4) in a fit of jealousy and anger by Cain which ended in the murder of his brother, Abel. It’s been a part of history ever since history began, and it’s a favorite tool in our adversary’s arsenal. Mean is at the core of hate. And hate is the opposite of love.
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus addressed this issue when he stated, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We do that all that time, don’t we? We love those who love us, and hate those who hate us and/or hate those we don’t understand. We judge, we criticize, we mock, but we never even try to wear the other person’s shoes. No wonder the world is in the turmoil it’s in. It’s self-preservation right down to the last shout, the last passive/aggressive behavior, and the last knife in the back. And Jesus told us that’s not the way we should act–not if we are truly His followers. But we do anyway.
Grace is not a license to act any way we want to act (click link for more info). If it is, then we might as well throw out most of the New Testament. The writers of the New Testament gave us not only the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the four Gospel accounts (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), but the history of the early church (the Book of Acts) and how we, as Christians, should be living out our lives in any culture anywhere on this planet of ours (found in the rest of the books in the New Testament). The Apostle Paul clearly stated in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
One of the hardest things we try to do (if we try to do it at all) is to love those we hate, or who hate us, or who treat us badly. I’ve been dealing with this issue regarding the folks responsible (indirectly and directly) for firing me which has left me unemployed for almost four years now. This blog post is an extension from the last blog post I wrote five days ago (see post titled, “Forced Leisure”) in which I found a way to reach those folks via Linkedin.com to extend a peace offering to let them know I was no longer angry at what they did to me (not that I expected them to care any more now then they did when I was fired but it was important to me).
There is a difference between hating people and hating what people have done to us, and there is a very fine line between the two. It’s like that often quoted line, “Hate the sin but not the sinner.” For those of us who are Christian, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Godhead also known as the Trinity) that we can overcome our human tendencies to hate. When left to ourselves it is impossible. Unfortunately, we don’t allow the Holy Spirit access most of the time to truly change us from the inside out. Many times we predominately operate on our own strength and justify our actions towards others in a self-righteous way although we rarely admit this to be true. Humility (real humility and not it’s pseudo counterpart, false humility) is very hard to come by in most human beings and that’s because our pride gets in the way. We want to be right and have it our way.
The actions of a few people at my former place of employment progressed over the seven months of my employment in an effort to make me appear to be incompetent and eventually to force me to resign. And at one point, I had to be very upfront with two of them that I had done nothing wrong and would not resign. Things heated up after that point and for the remaining three months before I was fired my work life was made very difficult. I offered to take another position in the company if they were dissatisfied with me in my current position and I was told that while that was an option in some cases, it was not an option in my case. I did not understand the reasoning for that and said so, but I was offered no explanation beyond that point. Quite frankly, I never understood the hostility I received from these two people. And they literally had rule over my work life there. Since I was brand new to Houston (and Texas) and did not have any kind of network there, I had no one to fall back on for assistance, and was I hoping to find another job soon since they obviously decided, for whatever reason, that they didn’t want me there. Unfortunately, that did not happen before I was fired.
Since this whole experience has left me unemployed now for almost four years while actively seeking employment during this entire time (and applying for over 500 jobs in my field of work), my anger at them–primarily two people–who terminated me has vacillated greatly, and it’s only been lately that I could finally separate them from their actions when thinking about them. I can honestly say at this point in time that I wish them no ill will, but I do wish I could have understood what was behind their actions towards me that caused them to fire me in the first place. I had almost twenty years of experience in the area they hired me to work in with some stellar recommendations and they didn’t even give me a chance to prove myself.
As a Christian, I am well aware of the fact that spiritual maturity is a process, and sometimes it feels like taking three steps forward only to move two steps back. And because there is so much in our American culture that screams at us to take part in it (and a lot of it has invaded many churches in America, too), it’s easy to lose our way. I have discussed in previous posts and stated I didn’t even realize the spiritual lethargy I was mired in until I arrived in Houston and started taking my relationship with Jesus Christ very seriously on a daily basis by making Bible study and prayer Priority #1 . . .
. . . And it’s changed me from the inside out over the past four and a half years since I started doing that and it has gotten me through some very, very tough times. When we start experiencing this life as Jesus meant for His followers to experience it and not through what we want and asking Him to bless it, it changes the entire focus of our lives and changes us from the inside out. It’s not always roses with the promise of prosperity taught by many out there–not by a long shot. And it is a process over time that requires diligent study–it doesn’t happen overnight or by osmosis.
It’s not easy to love people who have hurt us and I believe it isn’t even humanly possible without God’s help. Redemption comes through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and it is through His redemption that we can truly learn to love our enemies and those who have hurt us.
I John 5:1-5 states, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
God’s commandments are not burdensome, and that includes loving others who are unloveable, including our enemies. And love for others–no matter what may be the case–is the surest sign that we belong to Jesus Christ and are His followers. And how we treat others is a true reflection of our own relationship with Jesus Christ. Hatred, including meanness and gossip, has no place in the life of a believer. And if it’s a part of our lives, who do we really belong to?
As stated in my previous post, sending a note with an “invitation to connect” through Linkedin.com to those who did me harm at my former place of employment was the only way I knew how to contact them to let them know I was no longer angry at them. While I have received several responses from the 40 people I sent invitations to, I have not yet heard from any of those folks indirectly or directly responsible for my termination. And that’s okay, too. I just wanted to let them know in some tangible way that I don’t hold it against them anymore and that I wish them well.
Love always come with a cost, and Jesus Christ is our example to follow. It is my hope that soon I will be able to move on with my life beyond these four years of unemployment, and that a door will finally open. I’d like to close this post with one of my mother’s favorite passages in the New Testament. March 2, 2013, marked the 30th anniversary of her death and I always think of her when I read it, and she has gone on to eternal life. The passage is from I John 5:13-15:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
I’ve started asking for more love . . . .
How about you?
YouTube Video: “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood (Winwood/Jennings), 1986: