I was reading a newsletter in my school staff email this morning when one paragraph really caught my attention.
“Can you remove yourself from people who are negative or holding you back?
The quality of our lives will depend on the quality of people with whom we surround ourselves… It is a sign of our maturity to identify any negative effects of others and then have the courage to remove ourselves from that influence.” (Vital Staff, 2015, 14)
This is a truth that many people don’t realise.
I’m not just talking about people who don’t like your haircut or the way you dress. I’m not even talking about people who don’t share your views on politics or religion. I’m talking about those people who bitch, backstab, undermine, conspire and manipulate so that people they perceive as “powerful” will see and treat others in a negative and often quite destructive way.
I know the effects certain negative people have had on my life in the past, both personally and professionally. I’ve seen friendships and relationships eroded gradually until they no longer exist. I’ve seen different people nearly bring down a church, a school, a family. It’s ugly. It’s an incredibly awful thing to experience.
I’ve also experienced the benefits of removing those people from my life. It hasn’t been easy, nor has it been painless, but it has been totally worth it.
Negativity is a cancer that attacks and weakens from within. We often can’t detect it working away under the surface, threatening to overtake and kill the very thing it’s feeding on.
When we do realise it’s there, the best way to treat it is to cut it out and leave it behind. We can’t afford to allow it to continue to grow, because it will gradually choke the joy, and then the life, out of us.
I can hear some of you thinking, “But wait. You’re a Christian. Aren’t you supposed to love and forgive and all that?”
Sure. Love and forgiveness are at the top of the list of ways in which we’re meant to treat other people.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to allow people to continue behaving in ways that are hateful and harmful to themselves and others. How is it showing love to someone if others just let them destroy every relationship they have? How is it forgiving or restoring them if there’s no stand against the behaviours that will eventually destroy both them and other people?
So, when it comes to my friendships, relationships, and interactions with other people, I will continue to choose to surround myself with the positive and constructive, and excise the negative. I can, and will, continue to remove the negative people from my life.
There’s no compulsion for you to follow suit. There’s no obligation for you to keep me in your friends list if you think I have a negative effect on you.
I know not everyone will like me. I realise that even the people who like me don’t like everything I do or say. It would be naive of me to think otherwise.
You know what? I’m entirely okay with that. I don’t need to be liked by everyone. I don’t need a fan club. And I am more than happy to accept that there are some who will be much happier without me. That’s life.
I do not desire to be everything to everyone. At some point earlier in my life I did, but I have long stopped trying to achieve that, because I found out the hard way that it simply isn’t possible. That’s a sure-fire recipe for heartbreak.
What I do desire is for the people close to me to continue to be positive and constructive in my life.
I relish the freedom to choose who and what will speak into my life and influence my thoughts and actions, and the freedom to be who I am without always looking over my shoulder, afraid of the judgement and negativity of others.