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How do I handle a malevolent person with love?


“I read all the wonderful passages on your blog and agree that Love is all there is. I've wanted to ask what one does when one is directly under attack by a malevolent person!?! I'm trying to be kind - it's my natural disposition - but then I'm side-swiped by false attacks. Any advice here would be most welcome!!”


How to love a malevolent person? I wondered with you ....

And I Googled the meaning of malevolent: “having or showing a wish to do evil to others”.

 

And then I saw Jesus on the cross ...

And I remembered this poem by Rumi:

 

“This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.”

 

“This being human is a guest house”... I've never quite approached life in that manner. Instead, I've always safeguarded my humanity. I stationed myself as a guard at the front door, admitting only acceptable, good visitors into my life. That's why the prosperity gospel appealed to me in my youth. We sang, "I'm happy, healthy, blessed and anointed."

As for other more unsavoury guests, like sickness or loss or death, or malevolence, or being shunned or alone, I either turned them away with anger or pretended not to be home. I reacted with the normal instinctive fight or flight reaction to protect me from perceived threat.

But with age came the realisation that the unsavoury visitors tend to hang around until they are dealt with. And one realises that unwelcome guests continue to come to come one's door, in spite of prayers and fasting and other endeavours to stave them off.


Recently, I've been learning to adopt a guesthouse mentality with an open-door policy. I've come to terms with the fact that I can't control what life brings to my doorstep. I've spent the majority of my life to reform the unwelcome visitors like negativity, imperfection, and threats to my well-being. But now, with old age tempering my reactions, I've realized how weary I am of this fight. I've relied too heavily on the illusion that I am able to control who enters my house or even come to my door. Consequently, I've become increasingly receptive to welcoming even the visitors I would rather do without.


I'm discovering how to welcome my entire life—the good, the bad and the ugly - malevolent individuals and false accusations alike. I'm realizing that every visitor brings a gift, even if they don't present it openly. Many conceal their gifts well, but they're there nonetheless. Anger often hides fear behind its back, while fear holds the potential for a shift towards faith and love. Even my own malevolence, when provoked, carries the gift of forgiveness for those who mistreat me, once I acknowledge it.

I'm realizing that these gifts aren't just handed out freely. It's not like a birthday party where presents are showered upon you. Obtaining these hidden gifts requires asking, seeking, and knocking. Life doesn't seem to offer its blessings easily, especially those that stem from suffering. But I've learned to delve deeper.

I've learned to sit with hurt, imperfection, sickness, suffering, and loss and simply observe. It's akin to the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva—seven days of silent contemplation on the life of the departed. Sitting quietly when all you want to do is scream, react, retaliate, defend, or run away is one of the most challenging disciplines in life.


I'm realizing that maintaining an open-door policy isn't easy. Often, I find myself instinctively closing the door upon first glance, only to realize that the visitor isn't going to leave. I have to sit and observe until I uncover the hidden gift, and only then can I allow the perceived threat into my life. Sometimes, it takes days, weeks, or even months to unearth the gift.

It's like someone who has lost their legs and must gaze at the wheelchair for months before discovering the gift of surrender that leads to mobility. Or when cancer came knocking and took my Dad, and I had to confront it for years before uncovering the hidden lessons. Loss and perplexion were profound teachers, as the pain persisted until I surrendered and could utter, "not my will but Yours be done."


In every circumstance, there lies a hidden gift—something I can only uncover through a struggle akin to Gethsemane. As with Jesus, unveiling this gift always requires an act of yielding - not to the malevolent person, the cancer, or the loss, but to the One who alone can persuade me to release my tight grip on the reigns of my life. This is the only One capable of truly transforming me, the malevolent person, and the circumstances.

At other times, the gift presents itself as a deeper understanding of my hidden self or a revelation of the power of the hidden Presence within my heart. Occasionally, it's the discovery of these gifts that facilitates my own healing from wounds sustained in past battles—ones I failed to address in Gethsemane but instead attempted to manage through control.


The act of yielding to God's purpose is often referred to as 'surrender,' yet it is not surrendering to the circumstances or to individuals—it is a release of control. It involves letting go of the imaginary reigns I believed I held, realizing that I never truly had the power to steer my own life.

If the hidden gift resembles a Gethsemane experience, it demands blood, sweat, and numerous tears. It's a solitary struggle that few truly comprehend. However, once unwrapped, it reveals itself as a magnificent gift. Surrender remains one of the most potent tools in our human arsenal.


The product of Gethsemane, is a place of surrendered, powerful prayer where I can receive the wisdom to deal with the situation. You will know what to do with this person, once you have moved out of the bracing and into the yielding. It is as if yielding opens our minds to hear God. Maybe because God speaks in the language of Jesus ... the language of the cross and we cannot hear that while we are fending for our ego’s.

I have to open my hands in order to receive the solution and the wisdom. My open hands become the receptacle of all the supernatural and natural gifts (wisdom and love included) from inside that can either cause a miraculous breakthrough in the situation or change me so that it does not matter that much anymore.


After Gethsemane comes the cross—something I am unable to bear without the strength and faith that only surrender can produce.


So don't yield to force God's hand to save you - the yieldedness of surrender will help you to fulfil God's purpose for this hour and hang on the cross without retaliation or scapegoating.

And in the end - that is our purpose and that is real love.

Once you've surrendered to the only One capable of true transformation, you'll discover the means to address this individual and die for him.


God will provide an escape route once you cease attempting to navigate on your own.

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This is so beautiful, Stephan. Thank you for writing this.


Love your picture of surrender Surrender … is releasing control. Letting go of the imaginary reigns I believe I had and realizing that I never had the power to steer my own life


Move out of the bracing and into the yielding and then being able to hear God


Made me realise how human we are, holding onto our fears thinking this controls our fate. Except the only thing it does is hold us back from a life of abundant love. It’s a scary thing to stop and turn around and lovingly face the fear. It takes such bravery and courage to look in the eyes of our biggest fear…


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Thank you for the most valuable meditation on how to deal with the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" as Shakespeare refers to life's challengesin Hamlet. I've always wondered when the prosperity preachers tell one to "think positively" and ignore the feelings one has when struck down by an unexpected blow. Your meditation on Gethsemane is an actual guide on how to surrender to all challenges. I doubt anyone would tell Jesus to "think positively" when he went through the dark night of the soul. And we are all so grateful that he surrendered and gave us the gift of eternal life!

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Thank you Joe for the encouragement.

I have not nailed this down, I do have the T-shirt for I have done a number of Gethsemane's, but every time it remains a struggle to not run or to fight when the "old man is perishing".

This is my thinking - mainly from 2Cor4 - and it remains open to new arguments.

When Paul wrote about “light affliction”, he connected it to the adverse circumstances that pierce our ego until it allows the life of Christ to flow from where we carry it in our mortal flesh as a treasure. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence may be of God and not of us”.

What makes the…


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This is so brilliantly written! Thank you so much for doing that and giving the topic the attention it deserves but rarely gets.

These are difficult questions.

Could this answer them?“Unless you are converted (that is a mind thing) and become as a child you will not enter. “

This conversion has more to do with the piercing of our ego-bubble than with praying a little prayer or religious adherence or any performance.


It needs a change of mind.


Just picture a little child struggling with these questions?


The word Jesus used in his first sermon that is translated with “repent” - meta noia, describes a large mind or “the beyond mind”. The mind of the child must then be…

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Rumi's poem is really so provocative.


I love your piece's orientation on handling difficult situations and negative people by accepting and learning from them, even if the negative person is one of our personal deviancies.


Your learning journey to welcome all experiences as if they were guests, whether good or bad, is worthwhile. This perspective change can show that every situation, even the challenging ones, brings a lesson or a benefit that can lead to personal transformation and deeper understanding.


This Gethsemane process of facing up to a blood-sweat level of reflection and surrender leads to spiritual transformation, strength, and wisdom through embracing challenges instead of resisting. I'm sure you are solidly on to something in this approach to true…


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