I was fifteen years old, watching in horror, as a children’s pastor I had just met began making fun of his lead pastor, his church’s board and the other staff. He laughed as he told me stories of threatening to quit if he didn’t get his way. He reenacted a tantrum he threw publicly at a recent church business meeting. I couldn’t even speak because I was floored by such arrogance and disrespect. At that moment, my mentor-another childen’s pastor- asked me to step out the room. I’ll never forget how he looked me straight in the eyes and whispered, “You promise me Trisha-promise me-you will never be like that guy.” I nodded my head. Many times in my own ministry, whenever I had thought about how to make a presentation or how to tackle a tough problem with my lead pastor, I have thought of that moment. I had learned a valuable lesson- from a not so great example.

Have you ever wondered why God allows certain nasty people in your life? I have. And I’m not just talking about non-Christians either. I’m talking about “Christian” church people, family members, fellow church staff members and parents of kids in your ministry. I’m referring to people you encounter within the walls of the church who are bullies, who are deliberately hurtful, selfish, arrogant, deceitful, gossiping, backstabbing, lying, passive aggressive, and more. Too many Christians believe church will be a “safe place” and then get a nasty surprise. As my dad often said, “All people are sinful and carnal. Only some of them are going to heaven because they know Jesus.” So why does God allow mean people to interact with us on a daily basis without immediately stopping it? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few ideas.

Perhaps God allows us to go through painful experiences with mean people to A. teach us to love like He does and to forgive- though truly never as much as we have already BEEN forgiven B. to make us stronger in our faith and dependence on Him C. to sharpen our skills dealing with difficult people ….and also possibly- D. to teach us some important life lessons, kinda like a living object lesson. Didn’t Jesus teach many life object lessons? In fact, most of those Old Testament stories I love, may be included in the Bible just to teach us a lesson about what NOT to do! Joshua not asking for God’s counsel with terrible consequences, (Josh 4), Achan’s greed, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride,  Ahab’s fall etc. etc. etc.

What could we possibly learn about ourselves and about life from nasty, hateful people? Well, here are a few lessons I learned over the years from awful people:

  1. Don’t treat people like a commodity or a disposable product. People have feelings and should be treated with respect.
  2. Hurtful people have usually been hurt. Just as bullied children may in turn bully others. I have to watch myself when I’m hurting, not to take it out on others or to copy those bad behaviors.
  3. You tend to become like the person or persons you focus on every day. One of my least liked bosses gave us, the staff, a lot of research on how it’s a proven fact you will start to become like the person you work for or focus on. I took that research to heart and changed bosses/jobs. We need to be very careful about who we choose as a leader, a mentor, or a hero- you WILL subconsciously begin to pick up that person’s traits- good and bad.
  4. Don’t gossip or talk badly about others. You may be completely convinced and yet be completely wrong about them.
  5. Words hurt much more and do more lasting damage than any physical punch or fight ever could. I have to be very careful not to let my words destroy a brother or sister for whom Jesus died.
  6. Just because someone is hateful, doesn’t mean they are not RIGHT about certain things. It can be too easy to dismiss what someone says because we do not like the person saying it. Sometimes what they said was RIGHT, and we need to find that grain of truth because the hurtful, hateful way they said it. Two of my best ever curriculum/program suggestions came from the meanest, most critical people in my life. Both programs have been successful, and God has used them to touch many lives. It’s hard to accept sometimes that God may speak to you with great wisdom, through the worst, most hurtful person in your life! Can we allow God to speak to us through ANY circumstance?
  7. Don’t let your heart grow cold, or your love or passion for Jesus and His kid’s/families die. Some of the meanest people I have ever met are also the most angry, bitter and unforgiving. I do not want to become them! I want to let my heart stay warm, broken, if need be- I want to keep my passion for ministry and for people. Or I will become just like the meanest of people I have met.

How about you? Have you learned any great lessons from horrible people?

lots of love, Trishablog2

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