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How Would Jesus Handle Life Drainers?

How Would Jesus Handle Life Drainers?

One of my friends likes to use the term life drainers for people who aren’t concerned about conflict resolution or relationship reconciliation, but whose primary intention is to prove they are right. They drain joy and peace because we engage with them — often for days, weeks, or months — in the hopes of finding unity, solutions, or understanding, only to discover they aren’t interested in these things at all. They leave us emotionally, relationally, and spiritually spent.

Life drainers say things like “I don’t think wrong things; therefore, the way I see this issue is right.” (I actually heard someone say this once.) Even if a life drainer doesn’t come right out and verbalize this belief, they think it.

Life drainers are often critical and controlling. They see compromise as a last resort (if they consider compromise at all) since their goal is to prove they know best. Relationships are secondary. Listening to another’s perspective is a waste of time for them. After all, why listen to someone else when you’re certain your way is the only way? They’d much prefer — in fact, they often demand — that you listen to them. Life drainers are starved bulldogs with fresh meat; they bite and simply will not let things go. If a life drainer can’t control, a life drainer will find something to criticize and then leave.

Sometimes life drainers are easy to spot; they’re contentious from the start. Other times, though, life-draining tendencies lie dormant. You won’t know someone is a life drainer so long as you both agree. But the moment you don’t see eye to eye — bam! — the life drainer won’t stop until you admit they are right.

Years ago, a man at a church we attended became disgruntled over a decision the pastoral team made. Instead of seeking first to understand, he called one of the pastors in a huff.

The parishioner was demanding and full of rage from the moment the conversation began: “Did you say such and such in the meeting where you made the decision? Yes or no?”

The pastor stayed calm in the face of unjust anger. “I think if you knew more of the context surrounding the decision, it would help clarify things. Let’s meet for coffee so I can explain more fully.”

“Just answer the question. Did you say __________? Yes or no? Yes or no?” the man commanded, his voice rising with every word. “As I mentioned, there is context surrounding what was said that’s important to know. We’re brothers in Christ. Let’s meet for coffee.” “I don’t want to meet you. I want you to answer the question: yes or no?”

You probably guessed the disgruntled church member was more interested in proving his point than in maintaining unity. You probably also guessed that he left the church.

Life drainers are not always aggressive though. Sometimes life drainers suck the joy out of relationships using more passive means. For example, consider Emily and Pam. They were the best of friends.

Until they weren’t.

Without warning, Emily stopped returning Pam’s calls or texts.

Pam left voice mail messages and countless texts asking Emily what she’d done wrong. She apologized for anything she might have said or done, though she honestly had no idea what might have offended her friend to the point of being completely cut off.

Desperate to resolve whatever conflict had come between them, Pam knocked on Emily’s door unannounced.

“Emily, you’re my dear friend. Please tell me what I did. I want to make this right,” Pam pleaded.

“You should know what you did. If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you,” Emily said dryly before shutting the door, leaving Pam standing alone on the porch.

Pam left heartbroken.

And Pam remained heartbroken, pierced by rejection until a wise friend gave her godly advice:

  • “Some people want to hold on to their grudge more than they want to hold on to their relationship. If you sincerely did all you could to reconcile, and yet the other person doesn’t want to, move on. You did what is right before God. That’s your only responsibility.”

No matter what you dub them — pot stirrers, life drainers, or some other name of your own making — these folks haven’t grasped how to disagree without being disagreeable. Yet it’s vital to take a good look in the mirror. An honest assessment might reveal that we can be the pot stirrer. We may be the life drainer.

If we find that drama seems to follow us wherever we go, or if we find ourselves constantly irritated at others, we likely need to make some changes. We don’t have to be a pot stirrer. We don’t have to be a life drainer.

  • We can learn new, healthier, holier ways of handling disagreements.

And we don’t we have to allow pot-stirring, life-draining folks to control our lives with their incessant need to bring chaos into our calm. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

Of course, the natural question is how.

And, as always, the answer is found by looking at Jesus.

Jesus, the Life Giver

In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were the ultimate pot stirrers. And life drainers. Everywhere Jesus went the Pharisees challenged Him, attempted to stir up the crowd against Him, or some combination of both. If a group of Pharisees was present, conflict was not far behind.

How did Jesus respond to an almost constant barrage of opposition? Jesus was never unkind or unloving. However, Jesus didn’t have an insatiable need for everyone to like Him, which freed Him to seek to please the Father above all else. When confronted with conflict, more often than not Jesus calmly spoke truth and left it at that.

Jesus did not over-engage with people who had no real interest in finding peace and reconciliation. But Jesus didn’t under-engage with them either.

  • Jesus depended on His relationship with the Father to know when to speak, when to remain silent, when to stay, when to leave, and when to graciously let others leave.

We can do the same.

Conflict can drive us to the foot of the cross. It can provide an opportunity for us to live in dependence on our heavenly Father, who promises to give wisdom to those who ask. Instead of relying on resolution strategies (which have their place), sometimes conflict forces us to rely on our resurrected Savior. God knows when we should keep trying and when we should quit. He knows when it’s wise to walk away and when it’s wise to run.

As a general rule, though, if a person constantly dredges up drama, it’s usually best to keep them at arm’s length. And if a person is consistently more interested in proving their point than improving your relationship, it’s usually wisest to love them from a distance. These types of people have no real interest in unity, conflict resolution, or relational reconciliation.

To handle conflict like Jesus, we do our part to be at peace with all people — while also acknowledging that not everyone will want to be at peace with us.

Excerpted with permission from Healthy Conflict, Peaceful Life by Donna Jones, copyright Donna Jones.

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Your Turn

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As Jesus-followers we are called to love others, but to seek the approval of God alone. As far as we possibly can, let’s choose healthy conflict and resolution. But, when that isn’t possible because the other party refuses to, let’s give that situation to God and go on with grace and peace. ~ Devotionals Daily