I love inspiring Instagram accounts. As a growing business owner, I surround myself with motivational posts about focusing, achieving goals, and working hard, etc. But over the last year I have seen an alarming amount of memes and quotes that are all centered on one thing: cutting out unhelpful people from your life.
Here are a few I’ve seen recently:
“If you aren’t there in my failure, you don’t get to be there in my success.”
“If someone doesn’t add value to your life, remove them from it.”
“You are allowed to cut out negative people. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it means you are protective.”
And then this, my least favorite:
“If you aren’t making me happy, or making me money, than I don’t have time for you.”
On some level, we can all relate to some of these. If someone hurts or takes advantage of you, why should you put up with it? (NB: Obviously, I am not advocating for staying in abusive relationships. If someone is emotionally or physically abusing you, that surely requires action.)
I am referring to the underlying attitude that suggests if someone isn’t EASY for me to be around, or BENEFICIAL to my life in an evident way, then I shouldn’t have to deal with them.
So the easiest option is just to cut them out.
The problem is, cutting people out not only wounds them, but it can make us hard-hearted, bitter, and prideful. It presupposes that WE are a qualified judge to condemn and dismiss people based on our own evaluation/experience of them. Only God is righteous enough for that, and He chooses to love and accept everyone, just as they are.
If you are a Jesus-follower, this “cut-out-toxic-people” practice simply shouldn’t exist. At our San Francisco church, a pastor referred to this attitude as “anti-gospel.” That struck a chord with me. I started considering what the Bible says about dealing with people that we don’t like. People that make our lives a living hell, who are antagonistic, selfish, who maybe voted for Trump (or Hilary), who are rude, negative or who are maybe just socially awkward. Straight out the gate, this is what came to mind:
“Associate with the lowly.” (Ro.12)
“How you treat every person, is how you treat Me.” (Matt. 25)
“Bear with one another and be patient…” (Eph. 4, Colos. 3)
“Love your enemy.”
“Pray for those who persecute you.”
“Do good to those who hate you.” (all Matt. 5)
“Outdo each other in showing honor…” (Phil. 2)
“Do not repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good.” 1 Peter 3:9
In digging deeper, it’s pretty clear that unless there is a pattern of violence, rage, abuse, or insane blasphemy happening, there is really no excuse for just cutting someone out of our lives. We aren’t here to accept only those we like, and to all others say “you can’t sit with us.” That is a worldly mindset ill-suited for the people of God.
You won’t LIKE everyone, and some people will certainly drive you mad. There are several people who I don’t naturally enjoy… but my perspective toward them must change, not my action against them.
Living out the gospel is a call to love. That means we aren’t just being Esther or You anymore. Every dislike or repugnance we might have personally toward someone, can be overcome by the love, and patience of the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus lives in you, rest assured HE can conquer everything. You just have to ask.
Then maybe you won’t just begrudgingly tolerate someone, you might be surprised by love that is genuine, deep and real. One that isn’t up to your feelings, but up to His power.