There is a quote by Oprah Winfrey that I have seen floating around on Pinterest many times. I see it pinned and repinned among lots of other inspirational sayings, but it rubs me entirely the wrong way. "Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher." The idea is nice, in theory. I can see why people would like it.
Last weekend at the Type A Parent conference I heard a motivational talk from the beautiful René Syler in which she made a similar key point. Her speech was called "Harnessing Your Superpower" and midway through she stopped and drew particular attention to one point, even saying that if we got nothing else out of her talk we should remember this one thing.
René said there is no room in your life for someone who makes you feel bad. She referenced Charlotte as the home of NASCAR and talked about "drag" and how some people in our lives really create drag on us. The way I remember it, she encouraged us to shed the people in our lives that slow us down. She noted that it may be painful to say goodbye to these relationships, but that we should ditch them.
|The fabulous René Syler of Good Enough Mother|
I totally believed this myself for years. My life was about harnessing my own superpower for quite a long time. I worked my tail off, found my talents and assets and exploited them for my own benefit, charmed and befriended loads of people who might somehow help my career. I forged my own unique path to the top and was quite comfortable with my life.
Somewhere over the past couple years a lightbulb went off for me as I studied the words of Jesus. I realized that I had it completely backwards. Life wasn't supposed to be about elevating myself, my standard of living, achieving and believing that I could do anything I wanted. Contrary to the popular messages of guys like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, God's mission is not to bless me with success and wealth and fame.
Life is about descending. Serving other people. Not taking credit. (That's an especially hard one for me.) Pointing to the One who made me and saved me and made everything I've ever accomplished possible. Loving the people He loves. Loving the least of these.
Toxic people in our lives who drag us down and make us feel bad are that way for a reason. Deep down they are damaged and hurting. They are deeply in need. They need love, grace, mercy and healing. They are the least, the people Jesus has called me to love.
I believe that as hard as it is, God has called me to not reject and ignore these people but to reach out to them with compassion.
Hear this: sometimes boundaries are necessary and important. I feel like I can say these things because I am strong and mentally and emotionally healthy enough to know how to balance their negative influence with my positive influence. I'm not taking about just haters or jerks you don't really know either. I'm not the jerk whisperer.
But if there is someone I have an actual relationship with that is difficult to deal with, I don't believe God wants me to cut that person out of my life entirely. I believe Jesus calls me to show grace to that person whenever I possibly can. To pray for them and be a friend to them so that maybe they would see a better way.
Surrounding myself ONLY with positive people who add to my life flies directly in the face of Christ's command to care for the ugly, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the hurting and the needy. Even the mean.
We need positive people, YES we do. But if I am filled with the strength of Jesus, I can use that to show mercy and kindness to bitter, nasty, ignorant people who really are just broken and in pain.
Sometimes. Of course sometimes I screw that up completely too!
So I really want to know, what do YOU think?
P.S. - René said lots of other things in her talk that were awesome and I totally agree with.
P.P.S. - Among other influences that led to this 180 shift in life philosophy for me, I HIGHLY recommend Jen Hatmaker's book Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith.