Category Archives: destructive

Mean People

Watching a video series this weekend I was reminded of a tragic condition that pops up every once in a while. Most of the time Nan & I are faced with good willed people that really do want to find peace in their relationship. These sessions are not necessarily easy, but usually they are redemptive in nature. But when we experience meanness from a client, our hope fades a bit, especially when the meanness is seen as normative or acceptable.
Then we do not have a simple behavioral issue, but rather a heart issue – or more specifically a deep brokenness or sin issue.
I would define meanness as the act of exacting revenge or punishing another person. It is often intentional, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it flows from disordered thinking that cannot be brought under control. The person can’t imagine an alternative way to react to circumstances. Unrestrained blaming and anger and withholding are common tactics.   
Mean people are often lonely people. Others will eventually steer clear of them and they become isolated and feel abandoned. Their attempts to connect will be met with resistance and it isn’t long before deep resentment sets in. It is truly a sad scenario.
What is it like to be in a relationship with a mean person? Hurtful. Wounding. Frustrating. Does this person really love me? Are they my friend? Do they like me? They seem so disappointed with me. How long should I put up with this?
Sometimes the root cause is depression or anxiety that has become an unwelcome companion – perhaps for years. For others the core issue is plain selfishness and sin. I want what I want and nobody is going to get in the way of my goals. I refuse to be spiritually surrendered to God, even when I know it is the right thing to do. Either you bend to my will and wants or there will be hell to pay.    
What can you do if you are in a relationship with a mean person?
The Bible says to speak the truth in love. If it is safe to do so, lovingly, but firmly confronting the behavior is the first thing that needs to be done. With some people this works wonders. However, often this is not enough. It might take talk and drug therapy to draw the person from the destructive pattern. You may need to pull back from the relationship until the person becomes more self-controlled. 
The good news is that God is in the heart changing business. He is also in the forgiveness business as well. When we are able to recognize and repent of the damage we have been inflicting on those around us, He is right there to catch us and restore us. And when we have been on the receiving end of mean people, He is also there to comfort us in our distress.

Your Relational House: Building Up or Tearing Down?

There are times when I leave the counseling room with a lot of sadness. Sometimes it’s because of sitting with someone in their grief, when the only encouragement I can give them is to hang on in any way that they can.
Other times I am sad because a person is unable to make necessary changes and is headed for unavoidable destruction. Things have been set in motion that cannot be stopped, whether self-inflicted or otherwise.
Then there is a third situation that might be the saddest of them all. And that is when a client sees the problem, understands the problem, and knows the solution but is unwilling to do what is required. This is where disaster is chosen or allowed because of pride or arrogance or stubbornness.
God would call this last one sin.
I have seen marriages break up for exactly this reason – where a sincere apology would have opened the door to reconciliation. But the person refused. How sad and needless. I have seen relationships fall apart and families wounded because one or both of the marriage partners would not control their tongue and contain their toxic emotions. Instead, they let it rip and damage the people that they claim to love.  

Proverbs 14:1 (NLT) A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. 

Of course the scripture could apply to men or women, but the message is the same: you have a choice to build or destroy. And it really is a choice. No one can credibly say “I couldn’t help it.” Sorry, it just isn’t true.
But every once in a while I leave the counseling room rejoicing, because a client has made the courageous decision to embrace humility, powering down rather than powering up. They go to tears instead of anger, kindness instead of meanness, maturity rather than childishness and faithfulness over a cheating heart. They understand God’s concept of wisdom vs. foolishness.  

Proverbs 22:3 (CEV) When you see trouble coming, don’t be stupid and walk right into it — be smart and hide. 

I love that verse and translation. Again, it implies choice. I must tell you that I have spoken foolish words many times knowing full well that there would be trouble ahead. I could have hidden my tongue in my mouth instead – or better yet removed myself from the room. These days I am much more prudent. Sometimes words slip out unintentionally, but I try to be quick to apologize when they do.
So how are you doing? Are you building up your relational house or is there some repair work needed — or perhaps even a full renovation?