When Everyone Around You Only Brings You Down
- Janna Wright Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2017 21 Apr
The longer the meeting went, the whiter my lips grew. I suppose when you press your lips together tighter and tighter in an effort to keep your mouth shut, you should expect them to change colors.
Peggy (not her real name) was commandeering the discussion. Again. This time with a monologue on the ways we needed to follow her example in ministry.
Other ones in the group asked questions or added an insight here and there. Each time I tried to participate my comments were met with tilted heads and blank stares – the kind of face you make when meeting a rare sea animal behind glass at an aquarium.
And that’s when my lips began their albino impression.
The conversation moved on without me – this time to complaining about women in our churches – and my attention waned even further.
Suddenly a light bulb burst on inside my mind. The people around me were bringing me down instead of lifting me up.
Oh they weren’t doing so on purpose. The gathering was intended to foster community and encouragement. But the complaints and self talk and negative focus dampened my otherwise exuberant spirit. Like the proverbial lobsters in the bucket, I was being pulled downward. On the inside.
WHEN PEOPLE PULL YOU DOWN
Take a second to ponder your own circles and relationships. How do they look?
Are you surrounded by Dramatic Oversharers? You know, the ones who always have a crisis to share. Their stories burst with drama and woe, and they can’t wait to give you the latest update on how the sky has fallen this week. These people are usually chronic worriers and expect you to worry right along with them. After a conversation with them, you feel a heavy weight on your shoulders that’s hard to release.
Or perhaps you know a bunch of Negative Nellies. These are the people who see the cup as perpetually half empty – and in serious need of some washing. If it’s raining, it’ll probably flood. If it’s sunny, we’ll all be sunburned before long. Fear and pessimism are their best friends, and a conversation with Negative Nellies leaves you a bit disheartened and gloomy.
Or maybe it’s the Fatalistic Philosophers – the people who, when you share a new idea or thought, feel compelled to share six reasons why it absolutely will not work (plus a couple dire statistics and a personal anecdote to prove it). If these people had dreams of their own, they’ve long ago been squashed. And they feel the need to squish yours down to match theirs. You walk away from them with far less hope and excitement than you had before.
These are just a few of the kinds of people that can drag us down. You could probably name some others too. They can show up in family or friend circles and even at church, life group, or Bible study. If they fill your circles, you’re left with the sense that the people around you drag you down. And you’re probably right.
So, what do you do when everyone around you only brings you down?
BREAK FREE OF THE DOWNWARD PULL
Wise King Solomon warned that “The righteous choose their friends carefully” Proverbs 12:26a (NIV). Not everyone needs the same kind of people around them. But each of us need people that lift us up, inspire us to grow, and help us to be the best version of ourselves. And we must be intentional about surrounding ourselves with these kind of people.
I call these inspirational people “grace givers” – those who see who you are and who you could be and call out to the best within you. Grace givers celebrate your growth with God and want you to do the same for them. They love to talk about Jesus and what He’s doing right now. They are authentic and honest and focus on the positive. They share their dreams and support yours. When you’re around them you are a more creative, inspired version of yourself. And after interacting with them you have a lighter step and an encouraged heart.
Here are a couple of ways to break free of drag-you-down relationships and create space for the best kind of people in your life.
Find some new “everyones”
If you look at your circles and see a dearth of grace givers and feel everyone around you only brings you down, it’s time to find some new “everyones.”
In the case of my lip-pressing group, I finally recognized those people were not who I wanted to be around. I had no desire to be like them and didn’t enjoy who I was when I was with them. So I took a break from the group. When I backed away I could see more clearly and began to notice people on the fringes of my circles. People I admired. People who lifted me up. And, I reached out to explore new encouraging relationships.
New relationships you build can fill you up so much more than the drag-you-down kind. And though the process of creating new friendships may scare you a little at first, it can turn into something life-giving and fun as God helps you fill your circles with people who inspire and help you. (Proverbs 27:17)
Set boundaries with people you can’t avoid
Sometimes the people who have the capacity for dragging us down the farthest are people we can’t avoid: family members, church members, or coworkers we see often. In these cases it’s important to set boundaries in order to protect our hearts, minds, and spirits.
When you’re obligated to interact with people who bring you down, be sure to set limits. Decide how much time you’re willing to spend with them, and stick to it. Have someone else you must talk to or someplace you need to go so you can excuse yourself quickly. As much as possible, keep the one-on-one engagement to a minimum.
You can also make a list of safe topics ahead of time to keep from getting sucked into trigger topics. That way even when you must interact with difficult people, you’re still honoring your spiritual growth and being intentional about what you allow into your mind and heart. (Proverbs 4:23)
While God never promised us life completely free of difficult people, He cares about our community and relationships. And when we ask, He will help us find people and create spaces that enable us to grow in grace and glorify Him.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” >Romans 15:5-6 (ESV)
Janna Wright told her first story—something about kittens and lost mittens—at age two. As an author and speaker she still loves sharing stories, especially through her “biz-nistry,” Grace Thread, and her recent book, Grace Changes Everything. Janna adores deep talks, the Colorado mountain air outside her back door, and most of all, helping women of faith thrive in their God-given adventure stories.
Image courtesy: Unsplash.com
Publication date: April 21, 2017