The number one battle on this planet may just be the battle for attention. Our natural inclination seems to be to ignore people who are doing the right thing, until they too start doing the wrong thing. I include myself in this. It can be really challenging to remain focussed on the wise, well-adjusted people of this world and away from the attention-seeking behaviour of toxic individuals. In popular culture I am reminded how mentioning Beetlejuice and of course Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter caused them to appear.
Of course ignoring such individuals may for a while makes matters worse, as they increasingly clamour for attention, but I have eventually learned giving my attention to positive behaviour, has usually been a more effective strategy in the long run, than focussing too much of my attention on unhelpful attitudes and actions. Whilst I was busy looking one way, problems would often arise from a direction, to which I had previously been paying very little heed.
Writing this blog has thrown me just such a dilemma. Honouring my desire to share and to process my own negative experiences, whilst realising toxic people relish any kind of attention. There seems to be a need for balance. A need to keep an eye on things, yet to not focus unduly on people who deliberately and consistently sow seeds of chaos and division. My encounters with toxic individuals have shown me that they seem to have an uncanny ability to keep all eyes on them. Nobody else is allowed to enjoy a birthday, receive an award or even sadly deal with hardship or tragedy, without them somehow managing to refocus all the attention back onto them.
It can be a battle but I often wonder about Jesus teaching us to turn the other cheek. Perhaps in some ways he was just indicating we should be turning our face away from people whose behaviour is actively destructive and look instead towards God and those who are acting according to his will. For me this has not meant automatically focussing on a particular hero or preacher. It seems to require us to be more discerning about the people to whom we give our attention and to closely examine their fruit on an ongoing basis.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
A person might be uttering all the appropriate key words and phrases to which we instinctively respond, but what is their fruit?