Do you ever wonder why someone seeks to upset you? Some conversations can leave those involved in shock as they seek to pick up all the pieces of their hearts. Years ago I can remember Paul Tripp in class telling a story about a counselee who would use his words as torpedoes – intentionally used to create as much damage as possible. Having grown up in a home where I never experienced that kind of communication between my parents, I remember listening to Paul wondering what that must be like. Now twenty plus years later with so many hours logged in the counseling room, I know exactly what he referenced.
Have you ever heard one person seemingly go from a positive, kind spirit to meanness in just one breath? Possibly you too have heard someone use words that seemingly were intentionally meant to hurt another person. Pointed. Sharp. Unkind in tone. Ugly. Possibly profane.
Hopefully you are not one of those people who uses words in this way.
These occasions leave all involved hurting, upset, and relationally damaged. The Holy Spirit grieves in these incidences as those who should love Jesus and walk in the Spirit use their words as weapons in a war.
Why Someone Uses Words and Actions to Upset You
The Bible helps us understand what happens in another person’s heart when he or she tries to upset you, uses words as weapons, and lashes out against you as if you are an enemy. Consider what James writes:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. Therefore, you fight and war. (James 4:1-2b)
Notice how Pastor James explains it. He uses two words: wars and fights. In this context, wars refers to weapons, something physical, and fights refers to one’s words or the use of the tongue. His question is similar to ours above, Why do people use weapons and words to hurt others?
He answers his question with a rhetorical question which implies an affirmative answer. When one uses his or her words against another person, they are used to get something. Let me explain.
Desires Control the Heart
Once a desire controls your heart, your tongue and actions will be the weapons of choice to try to get your desire. Essentially, your words become the weapons to seek to do whatever it takes to get what you want. Jesus referred to this as well when He said to His disciples, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Whatever one wants in this case is the treasure.
One’s words, attitude, and actions are employed to get the treasure.
Walt Disney has sold a combination of over 4.5 billion dollars of tickets at the box office for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Everyone understands the pirates long for, connive for, and do whatever it takes to get their treasure. Although we laugh when Johnny Depp fights for his treasure in a movie, in real life it is not so funny.
Once a person’s heart grips around a particular treasure, he or she will employ whatever means are necessary to get the treasure.
Why Does Someone Seeks to Upset You Then?
Why does someone seek to upset you then? If in one’s mind upsetting you will help get what the other person wants, then the person’s attitude, words, and actions will do wherever necessary to accomplish the goal.
What is the goal? To get the treasure.
As James writes, you want something and do not have it. Therefore, you fight and war.
How Should You Respond Then?
How should you respond then when someone uses his or her attitude, words, or actions as weapons?
Herein lies the dilemma.
Think of the last time this happened to you. How did you respond?
If you engaged in a retaliatory strike of your own, that means that some other desire than the Great Commandments of loving God with your whole heart and loving your neighbor as yourself controlled your heart too.
Catch how tricky this is. You get angry because someone upsets you so you respond back in harsh tones, words, and actions. Why? Because you want something as well.
What would happen if in that moment you wanted most to live in honor of Jesus Christ where you love God supremely and your neighbor sincerely?
You would not respond in kind, but instead would be grieved over the other person’s struggle. You would recognize that the other person in this moment chooses to live for some kind of treasure. Whatever the treasure, it rules the person’s heart and causes this sinful response to you. Therefore, instead of getting upset that you have been sinned against, your heart should grieve over this other person’s heart and spiritual condition.
What Does a Truly Humble Response Feel, Look, and Sound Like?
If you recognize that another person’s unkind or ungodly attitude, words, and actions flow out of a heart sold out to a false treasure, you should choose to act in light of what you know and not react in light of what is happening to you. Let me suggest six actions to choose:
- Pray. Pray for the other person and you as you seek to listen well and work through this situation. Ask God to grant you wisdom, self-control, compassion, and mercy.
- Listen well to what the person hopes to communicate to you. Look past the attitude, words, and actions in order to see what is truly happening. Instead of responding out of offense, seek to listen out of genuine concern for the other person.
- Understand and have empathy toward the real struggle. You understand what is truly happening in the heart of the other person. How do you understand it so well? Because this person is just like you. You know the struggle because you share the same struggle. Therefore, move toward the person with empathy and care. Seek to listen well.
- Trust God as your shield. You may wonder how you can keep from getting hurt. Let God become your defense. As you understand the origin of the other person’s attitude, words, and actions is sought treasure, you can recognize the greater sin is against God, not you. Hope in Christ and allow God to defend you, comfort you, and use you for His glory in this other person’s life.
- Consider your own heart lest you also be tempted. God’s grace enables you in this moment to both look at your own heart and respond in humility. Self-righteousness tempts each one of us. Pride becomes our enemy. We easily see ourselves as the offended person who deserves better. Yet, when we are honest, recognize that only God’s grace in the moment protects us.
- Apply the Gospel liberally. In the moment or instance, preach the Gospel to yourself. Recognize the other person’s sin as similar to your own. See it for what it is. Again, recognize that your sin is covered under the blood of Jesus Christ just as this person’s sin. Therefore, respond as one in-Christ person to another.
Is this easy? No, of course not. Thankfully Jesus goes before us as our example. He goes through it with us as One Who never leaves us or forsakes us. He also provides grace for you greater than the challenge such that you can do what honors Him in a particular situation.
May God grant us all the humility and grace to respond in this way (James 4:6-10).
This blog was originally posted at Kevin Carson’s Blog, view the original post here.