Good Morning, Lord. Joseph T. Sullivan.
That is tough. It takes extreme self-control to respond to hateful words with kindness and restraint. I manage at first, but if the situation draws out over time, my resolve erodes under the barrage, my hackles raise and I respond. Not necessarily with hateful words, but entreaty for the confrontation to stop – loss of restraint.
I was in an abusive relationship for seven years. After ten years of therapy to overcome the fear, the panic attacks and the nightmares, I vowed I would never allow anyone to abuse or manipulate me again and I will go to great lengths to avoid a confrontation - until boxed in a corner. At that point I come out fighting.
A professional situation has me in that corner. Although I did not say unkind words, I did lose my restraint and plead with the person involved to stop the barrage. Of course it didn't work.
I now realize I cannot speak to this individual without receiving a negative reply, literally. I cannot say the sky is blue; cannot compliment them; cannot mention weather, movies or books. After a consultation with my supervisors’ all conversation must be strictly about business, conducted with professional courtesy. I do not disagree.
However, the result is a tense silence between myself and the other person and I hate it. I would like to at least exchange a few pleasantries and receive the same in return. Not going to happen and I need to accept that.
I turned to prayer and received further instruction.
A quote from a social site: "Any fool can criticize, complain and condemn - and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving." ~ Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Ouch. I wanted vindication not conviction.
I was zapped again a day later with the opening quote to this post: respond with honesty, kindness and restraint. Double ouch.
Why are negative people allowed to say and do whatever they want, and the rest of us are asked to put up with it? I really wanted to know. I received an answer.
Luke 7:31-36: "And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner. And if you love them that love you, what thanks are to you? For heathens also love them that love them. And if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what thanks are to you? For heathens also lend to heathens for to receive as much. But, love your enemies; do good and lend, hoping for nothing thereby and your reward shall be great, and you shall be sons of the Highest; for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. Be therefore merciful, as your Father is merciful.
Not the answer I wanted, but the right answer. We are to love the unlovable. Do I need to set myself up as patsy everyday? No. I believe it is proper to step away from a situation that is unhealthy, but do so without rancor, hate or vengefulness. In this case I can keep conversation to the minimum, but not with a sense of superiority or vindictiveness.
I try, but don't always manage to control my emotions, even if I can control my words.
However, God forgives me for my shortcomings, as long as I admit them, repent and ask for His forgiveness. I also need to forgive myself for being all too human and prone to self-interest. Then I need to pick myself up and keep trying and failing, trying and failing. Eventually I will fail less, I hope. Regardless, God accepts my efforts - and my failures. I need to remember that and apply it to others as well. And my reward? Inner peace, the peace the world cannot give, no matter how much I wish it did.