My girlfriend and I were hanging out last night and she was telling me her struggles with her in-laws. And we’re not just talking your ordinary “my mother-in-law thinks I’m a slob” kind of struggles. We’re talking marriage-wrecking, home-destroying, arrogant, self-obsessed, intrusive haters. The kind of people that send otherwise stable, happy spouses to therapy.
On a side note, I think what’s even sadder is that these relatives are good Catholics who attend mass every Sunday yet have no idea they nearly destroyed their children’s lives.
Meanwhile, my girlfriend, who has been no less than a champ through some of the most hairy challenges a marriage can face — from being forced to move her young family in to her parents’ house to losing children (yes, multiple) through miscarriage. Yet she continues to have the sweetest nature of any person I’ve probably ever met. Let me demonstrate.
After the latest round of nasty e-mails and letters sent by the condescending-in-laws, my friend tells me “I have never hated anyone in my entire life.” Which is true. I have never heard her say the word “hate” in reference to another human being. “But I am having a really hard time not hating these people,” she says.
My jaw drops. I was plotting their homicide in my head, and yet she’s telling me she doesn’t want to develop bitterness and hatred toward her children’s grandparents. No kidding. Well, if I can’t kill them on her behalf, I guess she’s going to have to put up with them until death-do-us-part.
Just goes to show you how much our human nature and the thoughts we nurture throughout our lives really change our perspective on others’ circumstances. Not to mention the passive approval we give both.
Haters. What do we do with them? In a culture where we see snappy verbal comebacks, backbiting and political manipulation in every venue from the television to the board room, it’s hard to imagine being as generous as my friend has been with her in-laws. She has remained silent. And silent people get stepped on, don’t they? I believe “Nice guys finish last” is the saying.
It’s her heart that hasn’t been so quietly permissive. She longs for justice for her husband, whose father berates him at every opportunity, and her children, who will be the ever-present witnesses of their parents’ and grandparents’ broken relationship. She wants to shake her enemies by the shoulders until they understand. She wants to call them out to their smug little faces. And I want to hand her the microphone.
But I can’t.
On the way to work this morning, I was listening to T.I. and Rhianna rap “Live Your Life” and it hit me… OMG, that’s what the in-laws are: Haters! The song says “Never mind what haters say / ignore ’em til they fade away” and I realized what good advice that is (go figure, from a rapper who just got outta da big house).
But seriously — when you had haters, like back in high school, the best thing you could do was ignore them, right? If you argued with them or taunted them in return, your life just got worse. Like dogs and naughty children — haters love attention no matter what kind it is, and it just encourages them. So the only answer was to ignore them because at least then, they had less ammo to torture you.
Well, this isn’t any different. My friend’s in-laws are haters. Jealous, petty haters. Ignore ’em til they fade away. This is actually Biblical advice:
Proverbs 9:7 – Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Proverbs 12:16 – Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.
Proverbs 22:10 – Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.
These verses tell us that if we fire back, we’re just inviting more trouble. Instead, we overlook their petty ignorance. And we stay the hell away from them.
Now, before you argumentative, Bible-beater types get ready to bludgeon me with a bunch of scripture and hang me for theological crimes committed against Christianity, here’s my disclaimer: This post isn’t a full-on exegesis of Biblical enemy combat, nor is it meant to encompass the full scope of how you handle difficult people. For instance, there are times and circumstances when you confront your enemies and of course, Christ challenges us to love our enemy (Matt. 5:44). Without going into details, my girlfriend and her husband did confront and try to reconcile with his family.
Their efforts were met with callous indifference and more insults. Sad story. The sadder story is that my friends feel guilty for being tempted to holler back. But that would be a complete waste of time and energy. Here’s why, I said in an e-mail to my girlfriend:
“Don’t feel guilty because you have wisely followed the way of your Lord and Savior. He knows the plans he has for you, your family, AND for your husband’s extended family. It is co-dependent behavior for you to try to figure out what is best for YOU based on THEIR feelings. Especially when you know they are intentionally trying to divide and conquer you.”
With certain people, in certain circumstances, you can’t win. At least, not right now. They are going to keep on hating no matter how hard you try to either win their love or beat them down. The only logical thing you can do is turn around, walk away, and ignore them. Haters without an audience tend to shut up.
So my point is: listen to more rap music 😉