Harmless AND Shrewd

Have you been around people who bring out the worst in you?  You just find yourself snapping and getting irritated?  I have read somewhere that the negative traits that we see in others are often the traits we have in ourselves and don’t recognise it.  In fact, when I first read that I thought it was nonsense.  However, I do observe that pattern in people to the extent that I’m nowadays asking God to search my heart and to soften it and reveal the areas where I’m failing in such a manner.  I see how hypocritical such behaviour is – when one points out a shortcoming in another person while they themselves are doing the SAME thing – perhaps in a lesser proportion.

On the other hand, I also see several other causes of such behaviours too – of triggering the worst in others.

Sometimes we have our eyes, our hearts and minds set on something or even someone yet it seems beyond our reach.  We want that thing or person so badly that if anyone steps in the way whom we think stands a chance of getting  our prize trophy, subconsciously at least we get irritated with that person – whether they say something or not, whether they do something or not, we find fault with them or take it out on them.  A proverb in Tamil comes to mind –  that translates along the lines of plucking hair from an egg.  The motive in this situation is either jealousy or insecurity.

Of course having said all that, there is the situation where the person who is ‘annoying’ is simply annoying because he/she is so wrapped in self and doesn’t even realise that he/she is behaving inappropriately for the particular situations, who isn’t perceptive of what is going on or simply loves being the centre of attention.

Then there is yet another scenario – where the person who triggers the negative emotions in another is an abuser, a person who exerts power and control.  They want to dominate and keep everyone else under their thumb.  Spouses or potential spouses are their main prey, the type where they can isolate from others such that the spouse is dependent on them wholly.  This way, the spouse will be immobilised to leave them and continue to be a doormat.

The spiritual realm is not exempt from triggering negative emotions in others.  There are some who need you to make them feel ‘inflated’ which is actually the outcome of a lack of self esteem. To do this, they may even put a nice religious term to it – spiritual ‘parents’ – such that you need to salute and say ‘yes sir yes sir three bags full sir’.  It makes this `parent` feel that they are indeed spiritual.  This is sad as our identity and security shouldn’t come from our backgrounds, our education or even our spiritual growth but rather it should come from  the fact that we are the children of our Heavenly Father created in His image and likeness.

Now for the victims – often people think LOVE means just giving in, dancing to the tune of the beloved.  We put a religious face to it saying ‘bearing in love’, ‘making the other happy’.  However, if we look at the ULTIMATE example of love – our Father, we see that His ways are quite the opposite.  To Him love meant sacrificing His one and only son, love meant disciplining as a parent would discipline the child, love meant meeting the needs of His people – even His creation on the whole, love meant grace as much as justice, love meant peace in the midst of trouble – not the absence of trouble…  the list goes on and on AND of course it also continues on in the present and will continue on in the future too!

Jesus makes it clear that He is sending us out like SHEEP in the midst of WOLVES.  Then He calls us to be harmless / gentle / innocent / guileless / inoffensive as doves AND wise / shrewd / prudent / cautious / cunning as snakes.

Focus on the list of the alternative words listed above as found in the different versions.

  • Meditate on that verse and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the areas where you need to be more like the dove and areas where you need to be more like the snakes!
  • Ask God to search your heart, surrender it fully. Is there something you need to set right in your life? Do you require healing of any particular area?  Do you trigger negative emotions in other people?  Do they run away from you?  Ask God whether it is caused by something that they need to deal with or is it caused by something you need to deal with?
  • Who triggers negative emotions in you? Ask God to reveal why and whether you need to be a dove or snake or a combination in each scenario?
  • Are you feeding into the sin of others by being complacent or a doormat, by being foolish and not wise under the pretense of “love”? Is this how Jesus would have responded?  Reflect on His life – how did He respond to the hypocritical religious leaders? How did He respond to the sinners?  How did He respond to the non believers and how did He respond to believers?
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