There’s a certain person in my daughter’s life, who if she allows it, erodes her joy. I’ll call her TheBully. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward PinkGirl is often passive-aggressive. Every day after school, PinkGirl tells me what TheBully did that day. And every day, PinkGirl and I talk about how she might handle her interactions with TheBully. I’ve encouraged her to include TheBully in her prayers.
I’ve asked PinkGirl to consider that there might be things in TheBully’s life that we aren’t aware of that make her unhappy and her unhappiness might be why she acts the way she does. I’ve explained that some unhappy people try to make themselves feel better by making other people unhappy too. They don’t know they’re doing it and while it really doesn’t make them feel any happier, it does make them feel less alone. I’ve called to her attention that TheBully is also unkind to other people and I’ve tried to help PinkGirl understand that she shouldn’t take it personally.
But I’ve also told PinkGirl that even if all those things are true, it doesn’t give TheBully the right to act the way she does.
It’s not okay.
PinkGirl and I talk about it at length and every day, I conclude by saying that I believe it’s possible for her to stand firm and not let TheBully control her actions. Every day, I tell PinkGirl that it’s possible to tell the truth – even truth that might hurt someone’s feelings – using gracious words. PinkGirl remains steadfastly unconvinced and consistently counters that TheBully will “tell lies” about her to “everybody.” “Everybody” will be mad at her. and she will get into big trouble with the teachers.
Every day, I tell PinkGirl that’s not true. And every day, she tell’s me I don’t understand and that I’m wrong.
The freakish optimist in me gets so exasperated with her. How can my daughter be such a pessimist?
And then I get smacked in the face with a little empathy.
There’s a certain person in my life, who, if I allow her, erodes my joy. I’ll call her Narcissa. Without getting into detail, I’ll just say that her behavior toward me is often passive-aggressive. After a few years of praying about – and relentlessly lamenting to my husband about – these interactions and countless discussions with him about why God is allowing this person in my life and what I’m supposed to do and say to her with the love of Christ, I finally . . . blocked her out. Literally and figuratively.
I’ve spent the last few months flat-lined against the messages in her body language, her wounded facial expressions and the disgruntled and sarcastic mumbling. And flat-line has been working for me.
Recently, the passive aggressive behavior morphed into a face to face, non-ignorable conversation. Skilled communicator that I am, I couldn’t think of one thing to say that fell in line with God’s command to speak in love. The words of the great philosopher, Thumper the bunny, kept echoing in my mind: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
So I stood there, speechless.
A few days later, a colleague/friend, who had witnessed the encounter, brought it up. My first response was to assure her that it was okay and to explain that, by the grace of God, I was in a place that Narcissa’s behavior didn’t bother me and that my focus was on my work.
But then my friend, a fellow Christian, said, “It’s just been weighing heavy on my heart.”
I’m not in a place where I can simply block her out. And I couldn’t ignore the fact that God has used her in other situations in my life to point out things I couldn’t or wouldn’t see. As I listened to her explain how Narcissa’s behavior was affecting her, I silently prayed that God would give me the right words to say. My initial thought was to sooth her soul, to help her accept the behavior of the person who was causing her so much heartache. Not once did I consider the possibility that the issue could be resolved. When my friend mentioned speaking with Narcissa about all this, my immediate reaction was, “ohhhhh, nooooo. That would not be a good idea.”
As she persistently brought up possibilities of addressing the problem, one by one, I shot them down: Can’t do it. Never gonna happen. There’s no situation in which that would turn out well. The fall out would be too far reaching.
The next day, alone, I thought: Who was that? I’m freakishly optimistic. I believe “can’t” is a four letter word. My mantra is “Just because I haven’t thought of an answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I just haven’t figured it out yet.”
What kind of power does this person have over me that I would abandon such a core characteristic? What kind of power does she have over other people? What kind of power does she have?
and what kind of example am I setting for my daughter? I had to fess up.
In the car ride home from school,
I said: “So, I had an epiphany. Do you know what that is?”
Me: “It’s a realization. I realized something today. You know how every day you tell me what TheBully did and I tell you that you need to stand firm and not let her control your actions? How you need to talk to her and tell her the truth using gracious words – even if it will hurt her feelings? And how every day, you tell me that you can’t do that because she will tell everyone lies and the teachers will get you in trouble and everyone will be mad at you …
PinkGirl: “Well not my real friends.”
Me: “True. But am I getting all this right? Am I leaving anything out?
PinkGirl: “No. That’s pretty much it.”
Me: “I realized I’m doing the same thing you are. Who’s TheBully in my life?”
PinkGirl, quick as a flash: “Narcissa.”
Me: “yep. I realized that I’m expecting you to do something I’m not willing to do myself. I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for getting so frustrated with you when you refuse to try and work out your problems with TheBully.”
So. Now I either have to start coaching PinkGirl about how to physically and emotionally distance herself from TheBully or I have to refocus my efforts on preventing Narcissa’s passive-aggressive behavior from negatively impacting my thoughts and actions.
If you read my last post, I should probably steer clear of Narcissa for a while. Because right this minute, emotions are not a factor in my decision-making and communication. I could easily, objectively and thoroughly tell Narcissa the truth and be completely unaffected by ANY reaction she has.
Unfortunately, because there are other people involved who would be negatively impacted by the repercussions of an honest conversation with Narcissa, I think my best course of action is to keep praying the prayer I’ve been praying for years: “Lord, if you won’t change my circumstances, please change my attitude.” If I want to shake the Hypocrite Certificate, I think I need to teach PinkGirl that same prayer. And how to physically and emotionally duck and weave to stay out of TheBully’s line of sight.
CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.