This series has been quite soul-baring for me. Here we go again. I'm ashamed to say I really struggle with feeling the need to defend myself to others. Why is that?
Believe me, I've analyzed this one until I'm blue in the face! I want to get to the root of getting defensive. It's just not an attractive quality, have you noticed?
I find that I get defensive when I:
- feel misunderstood
- feel misjudged
- feel like the other person hasn't heard me correctly
- feel ganged up on
- feel misrepresented
- feel like I've lost something
Did you notice the common denominator? As with many of our bad behaviors, defending ourselves is often the result of heeding our feelings, our emotions. The Bible tells us not to be ruled by our emotions, however, but to be ruled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Our emotions are often based on faulty thinking, self-centered thinking, and selfish aspirations gone awry. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, reminds us of truth. Jesus said one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to bring to our remembrance the truths He spoke. Likewise, the written Word of God also is truth. Truth sets us free. So when we choose to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, our emotions will not rise up and call the shots in our lives. Instead of being in bondage to our emotions, we are free to live holy lives that honor God and express His love to others.
Why is it wrong to be defensive, to set someone straight when they've misjudged or even misspoken against you? Because defensiveness is an ungodly characteristic. Think about it. Did Jesus rise up in indignation and defend His own character or life? No. Recall those excruciating hours He hung on the cross while men spat upon Him, jeered and mocked Him, tore His clothing and took it as souvenirs. The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:23 that while Jesus was reviled, He did not revile in return. Instead He entrusted Himself to the One who would judge righteously.
And that's the key for us to put down our weapons of battle and
Resist the urge to...get defensive.
First of all, meditate on and memorize 1 Peter 2:12:
Keep your behavior excellent
among the Gentiles,
so that in the thing in which
they slander you as evildoers,
they may on account of your good deeds,
as they observe them,
glorify God in the day of visitation.
1 Peter 2:12
Actually all of 1 Peter 2 is worthy of a good and thorough read-through on this topic.
Next, as you meditate on this biblical instruction, pray something like this:
Jesus, you are my example for living graciously, victoriously and obediently, even when misunderstood or mistreated. I want to live like You so that others are drawn to You. So when I begin to feel mistreated or misunderstood, ganged up on or misrepresented, robbed or misheard, help me to listen to Your words of truth rather than my wounded feelings. Help me to entrust myself -- my reputation, my rights, my heart, my future, my feelings -- to the One who sees all and knows all, and who will judge appropriately. And help me to care more about my testimony for You than my emotions or my need to be right or even heard. Help me resist the temptation to pick up my weapons and fight back, but to be gentle and patient and kind instead.
Finally, here are a few practical suggestions founded on biblical principles:
- Ask honest questions instead of building your defense. Sometimes we grow defensive simply because we have misunderstood the other person's words, motives, or actions. Ask for and seek clarity. In doing so, you'll create an atmosphere for honest, peaceful exchange of ideas rather than a battlefield. (Oh my! I need this!) (Proverbs 20:5)
- Entrust yourself to God. You can be assured that He sees what is going on and assesses it correctly. Trust Him and not yourself. (Genesis 16:13 & Proverbs 3:5)
- Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. I know. That's a Bible verse (James 1:19 to be exact) and that makes it a hard thing to do. But we can practice those three disciplines to make them work for us! Concentrate on listening to the other person. Make it your job to gather information! Try to hold off on speaking as long as you possibly can, giving yourself an opportunity to speak more wisely and lovingly. Finally, keep those weapons on the ground. Refuse to pick them up!
- Consider the other person. My husband has wisely reminded me again and again, "Hurting people hurt people." Could the person who is seemingly hurting you be hurting themselves? You're less likely to fire back at a wounded person, wouldn't you say? (Philippians 2:3)
- Speak truth to yourself. If the other person has hurt your feelings with destructive words, instead of firing back, retreat to a quiet place where you can heal your wounds with the soothing ointment of biblical truth. (Psalm 42:5)
- Put the weapons down. Remember, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil one who seeks to destroy every good thing God has created, including your testimony, your relationships, and your calling. The armor with which we fight him is all spiritual armor. But when you put on carnal battle array, such as hammering sarcasm, harsh accusations, or stinging words, and defend yourself to another person, you will destroy the good with the bad. (Ephesians 6:12)
- Keep a sense of humor. This isn't always easy, but I find it helps if I don't take myself or the moment so seriously.
I don't want to be a defensive person, someone with whom people feel they must walk on eggshells. Know what I mean? I want to be gracious and easy-to-be-with. I want to be the kind of person who creates an atmosphere for easy exchange of ideas, not a battlefield. Sometimes the other person creates that kind of situation, but I can still refuse to pick up the weapons of battle. Instead I can diffuse the tension with a sense of humor, a little grace, and trust in my God.
Do you have additional ideas on how to keep from becoming defensive? I'd love to hear them. I need to hear them!
Labels: friendship, grace, How to Resist the Urge, relationships, What's in Your Pack