I was enjoying the presence of friends and family when we started reminiscing about the younger years of our adult-children. We laughed about our children’s behavior when they were younger when someone (whom I am not that close in relationship with), out of nowhere, started talking about my ex-husband, my children’s father. This person made snide remarks about him and said in a condescending manner, “oh we don’t want to talk about him!” There was a point in time when I would have joined in the conversation with my own snide remarks. I would have made comments about his wrongdoings. But I look at him differently now. I look at him through a different lens.
At that moment when this person made that statement, all eyes were on me, waiting for my response. People will follow your lead. I paused, looked into their eyes, and thought “how are you going to respond?” Because honestly, I was caught off-guard. I wondered how did we get here? How did this happy conversation turn in this direction? And it only took one person to shift everyone’s focus from an uplifting conversation to belittling gossip.
Sometimes people can manipulate a happy moment to appease their own desires. These people are self-centered and are only concerned about their personal gain to achieve feelings of power and superiority in relationships with others. This behavior is designed for them to feel in control or to boost their self-esteem. They are unable to bask in other’s happiness for fear of not getting attention. Pay attention to these people and their habits because they may be the type who intentionally or habitually derail conversations to satisfy whatever longings are in their heart.
Unfortunately, people tend to stay in your past pain and remind you of it. They refuse to do the work to free themselves from bitterness and unforgiveness. Just because they are stuck in the past does not mean you have to join them. If you are about letting old offenses go and releasing the bitterness to free your soul, be careful you do not allow others to manipulate you and take you back to that old place.
Within those few seconds, my mind saw so many things. It saw this person’s heart and how they are choosing to hold on to my past hurts when I have forgiven my ex-husband. I saw the disrespect of their heart towards a person who never did anything to them. And frankly, they were disrespectful to not honor my process of forgiveness. Seeing their heart was freeing for me because I now know what needed to be said to redirect the conversation back to happy again. At one point in time, I did not know how to do that because manipulative people are experts at controlling others. And insecure people are easily controlled and do not always speak up for themselves. I am becoming more secure in my identity in Christ, and He is rebuilding my self-esteem.
I am working extremely hard:
- to forgive others of the lies and pain they have inflicted on me;
- to call people on their bad behavior, if appropriate (pick and choose your battles);
- to shrug negative comments off my shoulders, if appropriate (every comment does not need your attention); and
- to continue this process of forgiveness, especially when others remind me of my past pain.
Bad behavior by others is not always intentional. Some people are not aware of their behavior. But people can try to take you back to your old self. And you have a choice whether you will allow them to take you back. Remember, others cannot repeatedly do anything to you that you do not allow.
Do not let anyone take you back to a level that you have already leveled up from.