Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Right Answer

The "right" answer is easy to give.  When someone is constantly turning everything you say into a spiritual lesson, it's easy to give them their expected "right" answer because you know what they want to hear.  They want to hear things that make them comfortable, that let them know you are on the right track in your spiritual growth (according to their expectations). They want answers that reflect their own decisions as if it will validate them and they can keep on feeling good about themselves and their own choices.  Yep, giving the right answer is easy. I know the "right" answer every time. I know exactly what these people want to hear, which, to them, is the "right" answer. I know where they are going with their leading comments that have obvious hints of their own perceived spiritual status.  Have you ever met someone like that?

I know the expected  "right" answers, but I never give the "right" answers. I scold myself if I give the right answer by accident by going with the flow of a conversation.  I prefer to give the real answers; the true answers, which are not always defined as "right" to these types of people.

Case in point:  I recently met someone who seemed to be determined to make sure I knew all the "right" answers and  give them to her when she demanded them through subtle hints in seemingly casual. conversation.  But, alas, I had to throw her off. I could not bring myself to give her the expected "right" answers and it threw her into a bit of a tizzy and she wasn't quite sure what to do with me.

I do not and did not purposely go into any conversation with intent to challenge.  Mostly, my responses were borne out of defense since the flavor of the conversations was continually challenging my own level of commitment and walk with the Lord.  The underlying theme was simply that I was not measuring up. This approach is nothing short of spiritual abuse and I refuse to take part in that, let alone be a victim of such nonsense.  Who has time for that when they are truly living for the Lord in the first place?

If/when you find yourself in a situation where you are being unjustly challenged, i.e. the challenge, itself, is given with the indication that you are clearly wrong and need constant correction, let me give you some pointers so that you don't have to fall victim to that.

  • When the unjust challenge starts, remember that you do not answer to the person making the challenge, especially if it is someone you just met.  If you have a consistent spiritual leader in your life who is offering the challenge, that's different, but these damaging challenges rarely come from people who are more closely involved in your life.  The vast majority of the unjust challenges come from new people in your life who come across as though they have all the answers when you first meet them.  So, you don't have to answer to them. You can either politely smile and thank them for their input or say something like, "Oh, aren't you clever!" and let it go at that.  
  • Your relationship with God is private.  You are under no obligation whatsoever to share with anyone how often you pray, what you pray about, if you pray, when you pray, where you pray, etc. The Lord, Himself, is actually strong enough, wise enough and loving enough to draw you to prayer without some outside person setting an acceptable schedule and indicating that it's the only means of true spiritual acceptance.
  • You do not have to be awkward in silence. Let their condemning words fall on the floor with an awkward silence so they feel the awkwardness and own it. You do not have to feel awkward or like you need to fill a silence left by a cutting remark. If they made the remark, they can own the silence. I was once at a retreat and the speaker was very condemning right from the start, telling us everything we do wrong all the time.  I did not appreciate this as I had not done the things she was accusing me, and the entire audience of ladies, of.  So, I didn't look at her much when she was talking to us.  In the next session, she must have felt an awkward silence from the last one because she actually said, "Oh, ladies, did you know that if you do not look at me when I'm talking and make eye contact, I cannot see you?"  And, I was thinking...."Hmmm, that's working for me!"  Her attempts to lay guilt on us did not work on me.
  • Be real.  How you feel about a situation is ok. Just be real.  Feeling a certain way, whether approved of or not, is just that - your feelings.  God does not change with our feelings, but our feelings are real. His Truth remains the same and He is not afraid of our feelings because He knows they are just feelings. Take fear, for example.  When someone is afraid, they are often admonished by other Christians that they "should not" feel that way.  But, their fear is real and tangible and awful and all those things fear is, and now a Christian brother or sister has added guilt to their fear, making it worse. When I am afraid, I have learned from Scripture, that fear is normal, expected and already handled by our Almighty God.  He remembers that we are dust; He KNOWS we are going to fear and does not even one time condemn us for our fear.  Most Christians are afraid of real feelings so they tell us we "should not" feel that way.  Quite frankly, I think we should feel most of the things we feel and be real about them.
You do not have to give the right answer to anyone. Give the real answer, instead.  Tell them you are afraid and when they say, "Oh, you shouldn't be afraid," tell, them, "Oh, yes I should!"  and feel what you feel.  Just know that they are only feelings, they will pass, but our God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb 13:8)


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