Some days are too busy to write. So if I may paraphrase the classis bit from Johnny Carson…
“I have in my hand some earlier posts, a child of four can plainly see these posts are hermetically sealed. They’ve been kept since noon today in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnalls’ porch. No one-but one -knows the contents.”
With no further ado we open the seal to one of these earlier posts. Hope you enjoy.
I used to be terrified by Dracula when I was a kid. Bela Lugosi played the Transylvania terror and I did not sleep well for many nights after seeing that movie. The standard defense methods against a vampire were generally not available to an eight year old kid. I did not have any silver bullets, did not possess a crucifix, was too chicken to think about the wooden stake, and could not figure out an excuse to put garlic on the shopping list. So I hunkered down under the covers, stayed close to beloved mutt Penny, and began my first foray into earnest prayer. God does work in mysterious ways.
So it brought back those childhood memories when I picked up an article headlined Give the slip to ‘energy vampires’. The premise of the piece written by Patrick Pemberton is that certain people possess bad vibes, passive-aggressive tactics or outright meanness that simply wipes you out. The concept comes from a book written by psychiatrist Judith Orloff entitled “Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress & Fear into Vibrance, Strength and Love”. I certain relate to the 9 classifications of energy vampires that she outlines. Her ideas to combat them veered a bit from my strategy. Let’s look at a few of them with Orloff’s strategy with the approach of your humble bad Christian following in italics.
This guy has a sneaky way of making you feel guilty for not getting things right. He’ll dole out endless guilt, resort to verbal abuse, and levy accusations, leaving no room for discussion.
Solution: Imagine yourself enveloped in a cocoon of white light, then picture the cocoon as a shield forming a fail-safe barrier around you. This is a barrier zone where negative vibes can’t disable you.
Reaction…. Uhhhhh. Okay. My cocoon proved to be way too porous (shouldn’t have used the lowest bidder) and negative vibes pummelled me. So I went back to my original plan. I don’t mean to get all spiritual but this is actually where I am in my journey with Jesus. I have finally realized that I have a new identity in Christ. When confronted with verbal accusations, guilt, and even verbal abuse I am learning (still got a long way to go) to remember that I am attempting to live in a way that demonstrates the supernatural presence of God investing in my life. To respond gently in such a circumstance is supernatural. I am not talking about being a wimp. A strong but gentle response communicated with grace is my goal. Jesus laid down the uncomfortable truth in the gospel of Matthew.
“If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5 The Message
THE SO-CALLED FRIEND
Driven by envy or insecurity, she puts you down for seemingly no reason, deflating your energy.
Solution: Break eye contact and visualize yourself power-sucking back every drop of energy she’s taken from you. Exhale and envision negative energy as dark gunk leaving your body through your lower spine as you picture fresh air and sunlight coming in. Consider a bath or shower and drink lots of water to reinforce this feeling of cleansing.
Wow. That is some toxic friend! Do you have to call the EPA for this strategy? This is an area that is under construction in my life. My Christian journey is much like Interstate 35 from Dallas to Austin. Constant construction, delays, and frustration. But when the construction is finished and the traffic runs smoothly it is such a relief. That is how my experience with Christ has been. I finish construction on one area and enjoy the exhilaration of smooth sailing. Then I realize that the Lord is setting up construction cones again. Doh!
I am learning to confront the so-called friend in love. Again, I turn to the teachings of Jesus. “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him.”
But amazingly effective most of the time.
It can be an unruly crowd, complete with elbowing, smoking strangers, or just a big rowdy group at a mall or sporting event that gives you a general sense of chaos.
Solution: Find a quiet seating area out of the stream of people where you can go to take a breath, close your eyes, then imagine yourself in a tranquil setting.
The stunning Mrs. Burchett and I just found ourselves in such a situation recently at a post-Christmas sale that resembled a European soccer riot. We found the following solution also works very well.
A dependent, she makes you her therapist and calls on you to fix her problems.
Solution: Identify the co-dependency issues and distance yourself with compassion. Offer emotional support, but don’t spew out solutions. If you’re consistent, she won’t expect you to fix her problems in the future.
This is a tough one. But people generally become dependent for a reason. Often the reason goes deeper than a friend can dig out. But offering love and the hope that I possess is one fixer-upper that has worked for me and those I love.
Other categories of energy vampires include the Unintentional Sapper, the Seemingly Nice Guy, the Constant Talker, and the Drama Queen. Most of us can relate to the people described by Ms Orloff. But I must tell you that I find an inherent danger in allowing myself to view people like this. Believe me I am often tempted to go to my cocoon of white light and avoid the neediness of those around me. But the words of Jesus continue to trip up my desires.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand–shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5 The Message
I cannot perceive those who annoy me as my adversaries and still live as a follower of Jesus. So while I enjoy the amusing concept of energy vampires I cannot view them that way. Even those who are a drain are people created in the image of God. Jesus died for the salvation of fixer-uppers, blamers, so-called friends, complainers, drama queens, sob sisters, constants talkers, etc. A more concise categorization of all of these types might be sinners. So I hope I can look at these sometimes needy souls not as vampires but as people who need the hope I hold within me. But on a bad day garlic is still very effective.