Stop Petting Piranhas
- Friday, September 16, 2011
As I present in the ReTooled & ReFueled Essential Life-Skills Seminar at churches, businesses, and other venues we find many of our problems, frustrations, failures, and disappointments are self-induced. In our more reflective moments most of us are aware of this fact. Each of us can think of bad decisions that have led to failed results both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Some of these dumb behavior patterns are so obvious we wonder why anyone would trip the trap.
Why does a seventeen year old boy fly through a busy intersection at 70 mph? Why do we over eat and under exercise? Why do people destroy their sex lives in marriage with internet porn? Even if you are personally guilty of similar bad choices, you will still admit that there is really no ambiguity here—these are clearly destructive behavior patterns. Right?
I want to delve into another destructive behavior that sneaks up on some of the best and brightest among us. I call it petting piranhas. Simply put, it’s trying to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to have one with you. This can become an obsessive thing where we end up frustrated, disillusioned, and humiliated. We read about it, in its worst forms, in news accounts of obsessed fans who stalk celebrities dreaming of becoming the celebs’ best buddies.
For most people it doesn’t go that far. But in truth, most of us have petted piranhas in less virulent ways—and have ended up the worse for it. And in the process we have blindly ignored other relationships that were ours for the taking.
As I write this I’m thinking of a particular speaking opportunity. For years, I felt that I had something to offer the listeners, and certainly at least as much as some of the other invited speakers. But no invitation came, so I became somewhat troubled. Had I offended someone? Did the host not like me? I played many scenarios over in my mind. Finally, I came to terms with the situation, and here are several principles that have helped me cope.
First, I’ve had to admit a hard truth to myself. This was more about my ego than anything else. What was I hoping that an invitation to this venue would prove or validate in my life? After all, if I’m sincerely trying to reflect and minister for Jesus, why not simply trust him to fill my calendar? My value comes from God—period, end of sentence.
Second, I decided to go out of my way to be kind to the host involved. When I have an opportunity to hear him speak, I attend. I go out of my way to speak cordially to him. Then, after the event, I usually send him a handwritten note of thanks. So far he has never responded. At first that bugged me too. But again, I had to question my own motives. Was I simply trying to curry his favor—still hoping for that elusive invitation? Or was I being sincere—attending in order to learn something worthwhile and graciously thanking him for his insights? This has helped me accept the truth that not everyone is going to like me.
It’s not necessarily my fault—or theirs. The fact is, some people have better chemistry than others. That’s not good or bad. That’s just the way things are. For me, a pleaser, that’s a hard truth. But as I’ve come to accept it, life has become better. It was Jesus who reminded us “that the truth shall set you free.”
Life is too short to pet piranhas—because you’ll never make a friend doing so. And you’re likely to come up missing a couple of fingers in the process. Likewise, life is also too short to chase people who don’t want to be caught. There are always lots of other fish out there. Frequently these are the ones we notice the least. But they may be the ones with the highest FQ (friendship quotient.) Truly mutual friendships are the only really good ones. Why climb to the highest limb when there’s a big, red, ripe apple at shoulder level?
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