Disclaimer: I know this is much longer than our usual Monday study, but I felt it was a topic that should be addressed sooner than later. Many of these ideas are my own, and may or may not work for you. These are simply suggestions, based on my experiences. Please, remember, the only perfect way of dealing with these situations, is by dealing with them God’s way! Seek Him for guidance.
Shatter the Negativity
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:24-26
How many times have you seen a mother screaming insults at her children or humiliating them with thoughtless comments? How many times have you heard your friend complaining endlessly (not just because she’s having a bad day, as we all do) about her children that she “never really wanted anyhow”? How often have you seen family members (or friends) get pregnant “by mistake” and then, proceed to whine to everyone in sight about their “bad luck”?
These situations are painful. As mothers, who have lost a child or several children, we are so very sensitive to the negativity that surrounds so many women, when it comes to their role as a mother. Whether their attitude is due to the fact that they feel “wronged” or “victimized,” because they have children they never planned for or really desired, or whether they just feel “bound” by the duties expected of them, it’s plain to see that they find their children to be obligations, not blessings.
We cannot even begin to imagine this feeling (other than the normal bad day that every mother has), and we cannot imagine saying or feeling the way that they do. Even worse than that, we really don’t care to hear them talk about it one more time, or we might just rip their eyes out with our bare hands!
Well, unfortunately, I’ve been there too. I’ve been in all of these situations, and I think I’ve learned some things along the way. Let me share some of these with you. I hope it helps you deal with it in a Godly and grace-filled way.
1) Dealing with negative attitudes from strangers, such as the mom in the grocery store or the random woman in the nursery at church…
a) Try using grace to keep silent. Because you don’t know their story or their situation, try not to judge them unjustly. Yes, as mothers, we should never be mean or hateful to our children, but it you have children, you know that you have made mistakes. I caught myself doing this at Target just last week. I was embarrassed by my attitude towards my children that day. However, I sought their forgiveness later, with a humble and repentant spirit. How do we know that this lady is not going to do the same?
b) Try offering assistance. If the opportunity arises, offer to lend a hand. Maybe she could use the lollipops that you keep on hand in your diaper bag, or maybe she just needs you to give her a knowing smile and tell her that you dealt with the same thing yesterday, when you discovered that your child peed in your heater vent twice in the last week. (Yes, that was my four-year old) Maybe she just needs to know that she isn’t alone.
c) Maybe, if the timing is right, you could even try to share your story. Not in detail, maybe, but if you start by sharing in her frustrations, it may allow you to make her aware of the other side of the coin. This must be done in a loving way. If you are not ready for this, refer back to option “a.”
d) Pray for her. Prayer works. Use it! As Melissa has said before, “If you can complain, you can pray.” Instead of complaining about this person, pray for them. Maybe she just found out that her 10 week pregnancy is no longer viable and she faces what we have all been through. Who knows?
2) Dealing with the negative attitudes from friends, especially those who are close to us…
a) If you are super strong, you could try option “a” from above, and use grace to keep silent. However, this usually only works for a short amount of time. When you are exposed to this negative attitude over and over again, it usually works like lemon juice in an open wound. Eventually, it needs to be stopped, one way or another.
b) You could choose to distance yourself from that friend, without really addressing the negativity directly. Friendships change and evolve, with time. Some get stronger and some dissipate or fade away all together. Toxic relationships are, often, better ended, before they affect our way of thinking and drag us down as well.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. Proverbs 14:7
c) If this is a friendship that you desire to keep and strengthen, then, you may need to talk to this person. Here are some suggestions for a Godly, grace-filled conversation.
i) Cover your plans in prayer. God softens hearts. He restores relationships. Go to Him with your ideas and intentions.
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way. Psalm 37:23
ii) Make sure that the timing is right. Don’t try to talk over screaming children or during a movie. Make arrangements to talk in a private setting that allows for optimal concentration.
iii) First of all, address her frustration with some understanding. Although you may not comprehend the reason for the extent of her annoyance with her children, you can listen to her story (which may surprise you and shed some light on her attitude), and you can try to sympathize where possible. This will help to reassure her that you don’t want to “attack” her.
iv) Ask her if you can share your story with her. You may think that she already knows it, or at least she should, but often, these people are selfish to some extent and only see their “unlucky and bad” situation, missing the plights of others.
v) When sharing your story, avoid comparing her to you. Just simply tell your story. Share your heart. Cry. Just be real. This is hard, as it means bearing your soul to someone that may stomp on it, or at the very least, may ignore it. However, for someone to glimpse even a fragment of what you are feeling, you must be open and honest.
vi) Lastly, explain the options to her. Share how much you appreciate her friendship and how much it means to you. Tell her in a kind and simple way how her words of negativity towards her children, something you desire so very much and have worked so hard to get, hurts you. Give her an option. Tell her that you would absolutely love to remain friends, but that she must choose her words more carefully, when it comes to this topic. She should know that you wish better for her, and that you will pray for her to understand your heart on this issue. (Avoid saying “I’ll pray for you. period.” This may sound like you are inferring that you are better than her, and could work the opposite way. Try, “I’ll pray that God will give you grace to handle this frustrating situation that you are facing, and ask Him to give you understanding concerning my needs in this area.”) Make sure she knows that you are willing to answer any questions that she may have. (Realizing that she is incapable of understanding exactly what you are going through.) Explain that you desire to remain friends, but that you simply cannot entertain the negative comments about her family, because it is a stumbling block for you. Try not to point fingers, but rather remember that you are bringing awareness to someone – teaching them something. It takes time to learn. Again practice grace. Let God work in her heart.
Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. Proverbs 19:2
d) Pray for them. No matter what option you choose, praying for them is the key to successfully managing the negativity in your friendships. If you are unsure of how to handle this relationship, ask God for wisdom. He WILL give it to you…in HIS time.
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
3) Dealing with negative attitudes with family members…
a) Refer to the options above. You must remember that just because you are related, doesn’t mean that you have to be friends. Family doesn’t necessarily equal obligation. You may have been raised with the idea that family means obligation and mandatory working relationships with everyone. If so, you are probably not very happy with how that is working out. Yes, we have some obligations to honor our parents, honor those in authority over us, and show respect to others. When I say “obligation,” I am talking more about “feelings” than about “responsibility.” For example, I used to feel obligated to visit family members whenever they came into town, even if I never talked to them on a regular basis or even saw them more than once every few years. Even when they never made an effort to visit me, I knew that if I didn’t go see them, I would be talked about and looked down on forever. I used to go out of my way to be sure to rearrange my schedule, no matter what that meant, to drag myself to wherever they were staying to see them. It was miserable! I just don’t think this is necessary. (personal opinion) We can certainly be kind and respectable, but I think that the options given above for dealing with friendships, can be applied here as well.
b) Remember that just like those friends with negative attitudes, these family members have probably never suffered a significant loss before. (Refer to https://perfectjoyministries.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/fielding-the-comments/ for more details on this.) However, because they have not had these losses, they often do not appreciate the blessings that they have either. We, as mommies of heavenly children, have significantly more understanding of how fragile life truly is, how difficult and delicate a pregnancy is, and how beautiful and precious a tiny life and beating heart truly is. Those who hurt deeply, also love and appreciate more deeply.
c) Understand that sometimes it is simply a matter of maturity. Many of those family members with bad attitudes are either physically immature (young and unprepared for children) or they are spiritually immature (do not understand their Biblical responsibilities as a mother, or do not want to own up to them). Many people are blinded to the truth.
Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:7
d) For me, it was, again, working out an understanding with those family members, who didn’t understand my pain, but had the maturity to understand my request for acknowledgement of my pain. I made my needs and boundaries very clear with them. I have found that with time, I have been able to listen to some complaints now, with a new-found perspective. If I consider that we all make some bad choices now and then, and have to live with the consequences, I can more easily have compassion on my family and friends, who maybe should have avoided the “mom role” and now have to live with making the wrong decision. They cannot go back and change this decision, so making it harder for them by “whacking them over the head” with my desire for what they have, isn’t going to help anyone. (I’ve found that even if they may have the family that I want, it doesn’t mean that they have the LIFE that I want. I’d rather stay in God’s will for my life and find joy and contentment in Him, than to be stuck in a life that I didn’t bargain for. “If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, chances are, the water bill is higher.”)
I hope this was helpful. I’m sure I’ll think of other ideas later and I’ll try to throw them out to you. I pray that God will give you the strength to do what He wants you to do in regards to the relationships in your life.
Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2012. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bp21p12-30-12