It was a ladies’ Bible study and we finished the session by asking if anyone had a prayer request. Patsy had finally broken free from a long-time abusive marriage, and even after the divorce was final, her ex-husband just wouldn’t leave her alone. The legal piece of paper forbidding him to contact her was a barrier he crashed through often.
As she shared the latest round of trauma he was inflicting on her, Pastor Linda–an associate pastor of a large church who is also a personality expert with the college credentials to back it up–said boldly, “The world would be a better place if he was not in it.” At first, I was a little shocked. Are we supposed to say things like that? I thought to myself. But when I looked at the distress on Patsy’s face, I thought maybe Pastor Linda had a point. Let me explain.
As much as we want to think the best about people, sometimes we take it too far. The sappy, syrupy notion that “people aren’t always as bad as they seem,” or “they are just having a bad day and that’s why they do what they do” can be to our own detriment. The truth is, some people just seem to enjoy being mean, spiteful, and toxic. And if you spend enough time around someone like that, or are subjected to their bad behavior long enough, you will begin to change. You? Yes, you.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.” (AMP)
Check it out in the AMPC: “Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.”
Before you start naively thinking that “evil” in this Scripture means someone who murders, maims, or rapes, let the Strong’s Concordance define it for you: an evil person is someone who has a bad nature in the way they think, feel, or act. It is someone who brings harm to another in an undermining way. They are unpleasant, offensive, a troublemaker. I bet you know a person or two like that–I do.
This Scripture is telling us that if you allow yourself to associate with someone who fits the bill, over time, it will have a negative effect on you. Sometimes associations can’t be helped–the bad influence might be someone in the next cubicle at work or across the street from where you live. Their presence may be somewhat unavoidable. Yet week after week, or even day after day, their negative behavior touches your life in some way. Over time, let’s face it, I don’t care how holy and noble you try to maintain yourself, the worst will eventually start coming out in you. They will bring it out in you!
Why? Don’t kid yourself: Bad, vexing, unpleasant “vibes” from one person is enough to start eroding your good character. As the saying goes, “You can only take so much.” Before you know it, you are cursing under your breath and dancing a jig when you see them leave for vacation, hoping they get permanently lost on the way home.
Unfortunately, good people are sometimes the ones who feel pressured to leave a well-deserved job because they can’t put up with the narcissistic boss any longer. Or the pleasant neighbor is forced to move to escape the continual bullying of the mean neighbor. These things ought not be so.
After hearing from a couple of good people recently who are dealing with this exact type of situation, I went to the Lord about it. It was then that I understood why Pastor Linda said the world would be better off without the abusive husband mentioned above: she did not have a death wish for the man. She was simply saying that Patsy’s world would be better off if he was removed from it. You could say the same about the bullying coworker or toxic neighbor. Whoever’s life they are infecting, that person’s world would be better off without the “evil” person in it.
It got me thinking… why should the reliable, on-time, positive employee have to leave a lucrative position because of an unhealthy, mean, negative coworker or boss? The toxic person should be the one to pound the pavement and look for a new job. Why should the abused, newly-single mom have to move out of the nest she built because her batterer ex-husband lied to the court? Let him go find another place to live. And why should the neighbor who is well-liked, who minds their own business, and is considerate of their noise level move because of the bully across the street who lets his dogs bark incessantly at all hours, does burn-outs every time he pulls out of the driveway, and revs his lawnmower up at the crack of dawn on the weekend?
The short answer: they shouldn’t. They shouldn’t be the one to resign, lose their stability, or go house hunting in this market. I like what one grandma with a bull-dog spirit of faith did in such situations.
My friend’s grandmother went to live with the family when he was a young boy. He told me that if someone moved into the neighborhood who was “trouble,” grandma gave them six months to shape up, and if they didn’t, she prayed them right back out of the neighborhood. It never failed.
Psalm 37:8-11 spells out the plan for an evil, troublesome person:
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord,
they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (emphasis mine).
The first thing that caught my attention was “cease from anger.” Why? Because when you have been tormented long enough, it will change you. Remember, bad company corrupts good morals. You will start to get angry–not “if” but “when.” What is the incentive not to get angry, frustrated, forlorn? Keep reading the above Scripture–“evildoers shall be cut off.” They are going bye-bye. When? “Yet a little while and the wicked will be no more.” It gets better… you will look for them and they will be no more. That is exceptional news!
It says there comes a time when you look for that person who is making your life miserable and you will not be able to find them. Gone. Do we have a role to play in their disappearance? Yes, like any other Scripture in the Bible–any other promise of God–we can take Psalm 37:8-11 and stand on it, confess it over the troubling situation, and ask God to move the vexing person(s) to a place that, even if you look for them, they will not be found. That as far as you are concerned, they no longer exist in “your world”.
Now I believe it goes without saying that we forgive those who hurt us–yes, even seven times seventy in a day. And of course I realize that sometimes difficult people are put in our path for a reason and for a season. BUT God does not condone His children being continually, daily, on an on-going basis just being flat out harassed and tormented by someone who is, by nature, a troublemaker. Our days are to be spent in peace.
The Lord even says in Psalm 23 that He will prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies. Does that sound like God’s child, who is the target of an evil person’s scheme, is supposed to tuck tail and run or go backwards in life? No. A thousand times no. Psalm 37 says we are to wait on God, stay out of anger, and the evil doer will lose his place. You will look for him and say, “Where did he go? Hmmm, I can’t find him anymore.”
I once worked with a woman who gossiped so much that she would actually start talking about someone negatively without realizing the person was standing next to her–that’s how comfortable and natural it was for her to gossip. I started praying for her to leave the company and, within days, I heard she had resigned. Two weeks later, I looked for her… and couldn’t find her. The entire aura of that office changed when she left “our world.”
Do you have someone in your world that needs to go? You’ve given them every opportunity, but that’s just who they are. Before you quit the job or put a for sale sign in the front yard, take Psalm 37 out of your spiritual toolbox and put it to work for you–use it on purpose through prayer, confession, and exercising your faith. Don’t complain about what you willingly tolerate. Psalm 37 is your path to peace.