"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 16, 2011
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to accomplish something good, and have someone dogging your every move giving unsolicited advice and telling you what you're doing wrong. They may not be willing to do the work themselves, but they want to tell you how you should do it. Often their words come across as being critical, and make you feel as if they are belittling you and that none of your efforts are good enough.
I'm not sure why some feel the need to constantly hand out unwanted advice and to habitually tell others what they're doing wrong. Perhaps it's a lack of confidence on their part and they feel by making others look bad, it somehow makes themselves look good. Perhaps they hate to admit that someone younger than them may know a better way of doing something. In some instances it may be due to jealousy. Perhaps they've been an employee or associated with a particular church congregation or been a member of a family longer than someone else, and they feel that their position is being threatened. It may be due to them feeling important by "guiding" others and telling them what to do and how to do it. But most of the time, I think the criticism and advice giving has become a habit. They've been in that rut for so long, they don't even hear their words anymore. If asked, they would argue that they don't mean anything by what they say and are just being misunderstood, or others are just being too sensitive. They fail to take inventory of their actions and words and take any blame upon themselves.
When someone has treated you this way, it's sometimes easy to excuse yourself from taking responsibility or use this as a reason why you don't do something. "Well, if I'm going to be criticized or told I've done it wrong, then I'll just keep away from the person and not do anything at all." But when that happens we need to be honest with ourselves: Are we not doing anything because of hurtful words or criticism, or because we really don't want to and this is an easy out? Are we handling the situation appropriately and in the best way possible; or are we allowing someone to control our actions and emotions? And hardest of all, are we praying for that person?
When situations like these happen, Jon and I have very different reactions. Perhaps it's because I'm female and am more emotional and have the tendency to think with my heart first, then my head. Jon's response tends to be, "If I don't like how someone is treating me or what they say, then I can choose to walk away and not listen to them." He may get aggravated and not like it, but he generally remains calm and will walk away and go elsewhere for a while. At times he has responded back, "Well, I'm sure there are other ways to do this, but this is how I'm doing it." A while back someone was complaining about some work Jon had done (apparently it wasn't how they would have done it), and Jon's response was, "If you want to redo it and fix it, then you're more than welcome to." Not getting a rise out of Jon tends to dampen the argumentative tendency of individuals with that nature. Even if I'm not the one directly involved, if I know that someone is finding fault with something Jon has done, I'm like a mad bulldog wanting to bite someone's ankles. No one messes with my husband! I tend to be overly protective of those I love. While Jon is pleased to have my support, he also has told me in the past, "Loretta, I'm okay. And it doesn't bother me half as much as it bothers you!"
Jon and I have been married almost 6 years and honestly, we really never argue. In fact, we rarely disagree about anything. People tend to think we're exaggerating or not being honest when we say this, but it's very true. What few bouts of conflict we've had has generally been associated with us either being overly tired, or in a stressful situation, or not feeling well. One of us will say something that is misunderstood and feelings are hurt. But we are both quick to apologize once we realize there's a problem, so none of our times of having ruffled feathers have lasted more than a few minutes, then it's over with and forgiven. My brother-in-law questioned us about that a while back and didn't seem to believe us when we said that we didn't argue. His response was that Jon must give in to me all the time to keep the peace. But neither of us gives in to the other. Even during our remodeling we haven't had any conflicts or disagreements or arguments. We discuss everything and ask, "What do you think about this?" and are basically in agreement 98% of the time, and the other 2% is generally stuff that really isn't that important.
There are those who like to argue about anything and everything. That's how they get their enjoyment, apparently. I don't understand that, but I've been around people who finds humor and satisfaction out of conflict. If they can get a rise out of someone, it seems to make their day.
Two of my nephews were recently laughingly telling a story about their dad and his enjoyment of arguing; even when no one is disagreeing with him. They had been at my sister and brother-in-law's house, and he was telling them his opinion about something, which led to him stressing it over and over, and they both kept telling him, "Dad, we're not disagreeing with you or arguing with you!" But he continued arguing his point and was sitting on the edge of his seat, seemingly trying to convince them that he was right. They told him, "You're just arguing with yourself; no one is disagreeing with you!"
Quarreling and arguing are nothing new. Genesis chapter 13 tells a story about Abraham and Lot. Both men were wealthy and had large herds, flocks and tents. Their possessions were so great that the land couldn't support them both. Verses 7 and 8 says that quarreling arose between the herdsmen of the two men. They were likely arguing over who had the best grazing land or best watering hole. Abraham said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers." He went on to say, "Is not the whole land before us? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."
Abraham didn't say, "Well, I'm the oldest and the patriarch of the family so I should get first choice." He didn't think he was better than Lot, deserved more land, or should have more prestige because God had earlier told him, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great...." But Abraham gave Lot first choice regarding which way he wanted to take his possessions and go. It's often hard for us to put the needs or wants of others above our own; especially when it's to settle a quarrel. We want to prove a point and get our way. But Abraham handled this situation in a very mature, Godly manner.
What does the scriptures have to say about being quarrelsome or argumentative?
Proverbs 17:14 says, "Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out."
2 Timothy 2:23, 24 says, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful."
Philippians 2:14 "Do everything without complaining or arguing."
I've heard the comment before, "If so and so is going to be like that, then I'm just not going to put myself in the position to be around them." Although we can make the choice to not put ourselves in a place where we're criticized, especially if we know a particular person has those tendencies, we need to be sure we're not hurting anyone else by our choices. And most importantly, that we're not hurting ourselves. We can choose to not participate in an argument nor allow someone to walk all over us. But avoiding the situation isn't necessarily the answer. Sometimes we may need to confront the person and ask why they're treating us in a particular manner or are always trying to get an argument started. Perhaps we need to let them know that we don't appreciate always being criticized, corrected or made to feel as if what we do isn't good enough. But don't ask when you're frustrated or angry, but wait until you can speak calmly and hopefully get the matter resolved.
Sadly, I've seen this same attitude regarding church attendance and spiritual matters. Someone is hurt by something that has been said, and will leave the church and want nothing more to do with it. Sometimes they even tend to judge "all" christians to be like the one who has hurt them. "All christians are hypocrites!" "All religious people say hateful things that hurt, if they don't like what you do." So they choose to separate themselves away from anything that has to do with church and their attitude is, "I'm just not going to put myself in the position to be hurt or criticized! I'll just stay away so I can't be condemned or judged." But doing so not only affects them, but also can affect their family.
Honestly, I have been hurt by other christians and even a pastor. I've had my actions and decisions brought into question. I've been discouraged and frustrated. When this happens, I have to ask myself, "Is this really worth losing my salvation over? Is it worth risking eternity for?" I have to choose not to allow bitterness and anger to reside in my heart. But the truth is, there have likely been times when I've unknowingly said things that have been construed as hurtful or critical. Jon has pointed out a few times when I've said things, not only to him but also to others, that could be taken wrong; and generally it's not what I said but how I said it. I could have better chosen my tone of voice or picked better words. I'll feel bad because I never intended for it to be interpreted the way it was. I'm sure we've all done that occasionally. But it's so much easier to remember the times I've been offended or hurt, than it is to remember the times I've offended or hurt someone else. We're all human and have to contend with our mouths and emotions. I've had to pray and repent many times regarding my attitude and my words.
Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Colossians 4:6 says, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
If only I would do this! If only we would all do this! This is what we need to strive for: (1) the talk that comes out of our mouths only be that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs; (2) only speak words that benefit those who listen; (3) our conversation be full of grace and seasoned with salt. That's certainly not easy; especially for me.
The truth is, there is always going to be those who will be the thorn in our flesh. There will always be those who speak judgmentally, give unsolicited advice, criticize, argue and try to start quarrels, or say hurtful and hateful things. That's not right, but as long as we're in this world there will always be those type of people in our lives. But we cannot judge everyone as a whole. For instance, you can't judge a particular church just because there were one or two people in that congregation that inflicted hurt. Not all christians are hypocritical or gossips or judgmental, although you may have met a few like that. You can't lump everyone together into one group. That's kind of like judging a whole family as being bad just because one member has done bad things and may be a "rotten egg". If you have a dozen eggs and one gets a crack in it, you don't toss away the whole carton.
I am working on not letting someone's negative words create a negative attitude in me. As Jon does, I can choose to walk away and not be drawn into arguments or allow myself to be put down by others. I need to make wiser choices and not allow myself to be ruled by my emotions when someone tries to draw me into an argument or criticizes me. I want to respond in kindness instead of anger and frustration.
Secondly, I want my words to be those that will please Jesus, and follow the advice of the above scriptures. I need to think first, then speak. I need to learn to truly listen to what's being said and respond accordingly. Not every situation requires me to give an opinion or add my two cents worth. Sometimes people just need me to be quiet and listen. I've heard it said, that's why God gave us two ears and one mouth -- so we would listen twice as much as we talk.
An elderly man stood on a street corner, looking up at a church's stained glass window. Another man walked up beside him and said, "Hi. How're you doin'? I've seen you here a few times. Do you live nearby?"
He answered, "Oh, I'm fine. I was just admiring the beautiful window. I have a plain window in my house where a window like that would look just perfect."
The younger man just smiled as the older walked away.
Two months later, the younger man waited under the stained glass window for the older man to walk by again. "Hi, again. I've noticed you admiring my window a lot over the last two months. It makes me glad to see someone enjoys my work so much. Here, I've made another one just for you."
The older man was puzzled, but took the window home. He wasn't sure what to do. He hadn't paid for the window; the gentleman hadn't given him a chance to. And he hadn't done anything to deserve it. So why would a stranger work so hard to make such a beautiful piece of art for him? He couldn't bear to use it, and couldn't bear to throw it away. He considered whether to store it safely and hidden, or to give it away. Finally, he had a change of mind, and installed it in the most prominent window in the front of his house. He was able to share its beauty with others, and told many others of the great artist who had given him such a wonderful gift.
The gift Jesus has given us is the same. He has already given his life on the cross. Now, it's our choice whether to hide it, throw it away, or to show it and share the story with everyone who will listen.
1 large onion
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 scant tablespoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Canola oil for frying
Peel the onion and slice very thinly. Separate the onion slices and place them in a shallow dish. Pour buttermilk over the top. Press the onions down so they're submerged as much as possible and let them soak (no need to refrigerate) for at least an hour. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Pour 1-2 quarts of canola oil in a pot or Dutch oven. Heat to 375 or until a inch of flour sizzles when sprinkled over the pan. Using tongs, remove a handful of onions from the buttermilk and immediately dunk into the flour mixture. Coat the onions in the flour mixture, then tap them on the inside of the bowl to shake off the excess. Plunge the onions into the hot oil and move them around a bit to break the rings apart. When they're golden brown (this should take under a minute) remove them from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately with ketchup or ranch dip. These are also good on top of a grilled burger.
Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon