Years ago, someone gave me a great piece of advice. She said that when you have a person in your life that is negative and spouting off at you, try to picture them in Mickey Mouse ears while they are talking.
Life gives most of us a mixed batch of relatives and friends, but the vast majority of us get at least one irregular person (a phrase coined by author Joyce Landorf) to deal with. In her book,” Irregular People” she describes that person as critical of others, irritating, depressing, hurtful or illogical. As I remember, I will paraphrase her suggested choices in how to deal with these folks.
1. Do all you can to humbly deal with your part of the problem and reconcile as much as possible.
2. If you’ve done all you know to do to accept your part and the person is still behaving like a dysfunctional, uh…. (Jerk) you MUST—for your own sanity—shrink their influence in your life.
Now for some of you, that irregular person may be your spouse or close relative. I am not suggesting divorce or disowning. So please don’t get upset about that. I am suggesting a couple tips I’ve learned along the years that might help you return to joy when the person sucks it right out of you.
First, take a look at the negative person and picture them as overgrown toddlers that simply need a nap. Perhaps a long nap. While they are ranting and raving criticizing or gossiping or avoiding or refusing to do anything but shift the blame around, just mentally shrink them to about two or three years old in your mind because that is the level they are functioning in for the moment. Now we know that in reality, those comments affect you for a period of time (you are human, and even rational criticism hurts), but by putting up some minimizing skills you protect your worn out heart and you will find that you react to the person differently. You might just discover that you can shake off the comments in less and less time. You may go from months of stewing, two days of mulling, to hours of brooding….and eventually you may even be down to just a few uncomfortable moments before you can return to joy.
The second tip is another word picture. You know that little button on your computer that you can click on and it minimizes things into a tiny box at the bottom? Well suppose Aunt Agnes is spouting about how she never is asked to play the trumpet at family events anymore and what is the world coming to when we have lost respect for our elders. You know. People give you a piece of their mind that they really can’t afford to lose. Well, just hit the minimize button on your mind’s computer and shrink her into a tiny box. You might also choose to mentally turn off the volume. Keeping in mind dear reader, that at no time did I suggest the delete option. Not Christ-like.
The point? Once we are no longer overwhelmed by people’s negatives, we find ourselves able to be more loving and generous with our “irregular people.” It frees us to take a deep breath and ask the Lord for HIS perspective on that person, and not be totally buried or controlled by them. They may even respond a bit to our joy. And believe it or not, we ALL act like irregular people now and then.