Do you ever just mess around and...
make yourself emotionally unavailable for a good 72 hours? Or let one unfortunate day ruin your mood for the entire week?
Or have you ever just, I don't know, lost your patience with someone for no real, acceptable reason?
Oh, just me? Well...yikes.
If you want the truth, I am guilty of acting out in all of these areas and more. Sometimes, the behavior serves as a way of coping for me, a way of avoiding confrontation to the real situation that's bothering me the most. Other times, this behavior comes from a hidden secret about myself—a nasty one, a destructive habit. It comes from a system in my personality that I've operated by for most of my life. The Bible would call it a speck in my eye. My generation calls it a toxic trait.
What exactly is a toxic trait?
Well, for those of you who don't have a Twitter, toxic traits are irate, unhealthy, and damaging patterns of behavior that are absentmindedly adopted by all types of people—both the good at heart and the people with bad intentions. They are traits that ruin every type of relationship, starting with the relationship we have with ourselves. But, quite frankly, we see the toxic traits of others before we see our own.
At least that's how it's been in my experience.
Do you know how many times per day I would like to tap someone on their shoulder and point out all of their drama? How I would just love to plainly tell them that they've got an attitude in their demeanor, just as someone would put out a stain on someone else's shirt? Or just take the time to remind people that they are not entitled to anything? Because the older I get, the more I feel like doing so. (Keep in mind that I'm a writer. I always have something to say.)
But, being best friends with the Holy Spirit, my little desire of wanting to let people have it came to a quick end when He started to let me have it. The audacity! I forgot Holy Spirit's job is to lead me into truth, not realizing that this includes the truth about my own toxic ways.
But, He reminded me real quick.
One time, God made me aware of my obsession with clothes and fashion, saying that the confidence I had in myself whenever I wore my favorite outfit "took His place." And, I won't lie to you. I thought that was a condemning thought from Satan when I heard that. Like, me, Lord!? An idol worshiper!? Lord, never...
until I realized that I'd much rather be at the mall than in His presence.
Holy Spirit was loud that day, especially when He told me to give away a few of my outfits. The hypocrite in me awakened, and I felt ashamed when I dared to tell God no.
Which arose the next conviction.
Lord, You mean to tell me all of this time I've been a hypocrite? Advising my friends to spend more time in Your presence knowing all too well my bible has been collecting dust? And...uh oh. Now You're making me aware of the judge in me? Sheesh! How long have I been turning my nose up at people for struggling with the same things I would struggle with (little did I know) three months later!?
I had to take a deep breath. So many fingers were pointing back at me after I had pointed mine at others!
I couldn't believe it.
But even then, I was thinking, okay. Two not-so-good, easy-to-fix traits that exist in me? That's not so bad. I can deal with that. I mean, it could be worse, right?
But, Holy Spirit said, "Not so fast!" and started showing me how quick I was to get angry. And, you know what's really funny? I got angry.
I said, "What do you mean I get angry, Lord!? What—so a girl can't get angry anymore?"
And, from there, He showed me that I have a lack of patience, (which I kind of already knew and was hoping He would let me fix that on my own. But, at this point, Holy Spirit was on a roll). For the most part, I would argue that I'm not terrible at losing my patience. Trust me, I've seen worse. I hear people out, digest their thoughts, and give them a chance to elaborate on their point. However, the "chance" I thought I gave was really only, perhaps, five milliseconds in between their spoken position and my more (or so I thought) intelligent thought. I mean, hey! At least I was honest enough to let them hear it! "Or was it angry enough?" Holy Spirit would whisper. And, I would leave the Man on read.
Mind you, these convictions came in increments, individual intervals at a time. Yet, because I refused to take Holy Spirit at His word in those moments and pushed back the surgery I needed to fix these traits in my soul, I felt like I was fighting everything all at once. That urge to get pissed. That rushed, impatient feeling. That right I felt I had to correct the Corrector. That obsession with looking good and catching every sale. Holy Spirit made sure that all of these traits arose, so that when they came to surface, they would be dealt with. But, I let them go unresolved and grow more toxic to the point of misery and depression.
I was never really put in a position to work on me before. I've taken classes that improved me as a writer. I've attended church services that grew me as a believer in Jesus Christ. I've read books that taught me how to become a better leader. But, I've never taken a crash course on how to work on me—the person, the being, the soul, the individual. So, when Holy Spirit said that classes were in session, it woke me up and changed everything.
The exact thing my toxic traits didn't want.
It's just the nature of their existence. They identify themselves as traits first before they reveal to you that they're toxic. So, while you think that they're just "a part of you," and therefore, "that's just the way you are," they destroy you and hold you back from living a life of love without you even knowing it. They would never suggest to get rid of them because getting rid of them would feel like you're getting rid of you. And, once these traits become your operating system, your form of behavior and your response to intra- and interpersonal relationships, it's almost like you can't even imagine behaving any way else...until you meet The One who knows you best to call them out, that is—similar to the way He called out mine.
Am I saying you need to know Holy Spirit in order to improve yourself? Not at all. But, reading excerpts from letters written by great, faith-filled world changers like apostle Paul suggests that the transforming power of the Bible isn't just interested in "making you a better person," but encouraging you to be vulnerable before Christ Jesus—honest about your toxic traits, including the ones you feel you can't get rid of.
Take a look:
"So the trouble is not with the law [The Bible], for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!" —Romans 7:14-24
...I could end the blog right here if I wanted to. Man. Don't you just love how real the Bible is?
Wouldn't you agree that the sin apostle Paul refers to are our toxic traits? I would say so. Because it's like, yeah, I know the Bible says to live in love and to live in love is to be patient, but when someone is really trying it (and they were, God!), suddenly, I can't read. Or when the Bible tells me to be slow to anger, don't you think I oughta take Him at His word? But no! The toxic trait in me reminds me of my right to be pissed and irate and annoyed, and I act out, completely opposite of the way God behaves towards me when I mess up. And, it hurts even more because I know the Bible is true and God's Word is good, but with the way I've let my toxic traits run wild, I know I wouldn't be able to measure up!
And this, my friends, is exactly why I ghost God.
This is why I don't read my bible for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Because after a long day of putting some people in their place, shopping, and pointing out other's people drama, I'm not even thinking about talking to God. It's because reading His word might actually make me feel better. It might just get rid of all of my excuses to be upset and stressed out, might get me lost in the perfect presence of Jesus and forget why I've been holding 7 grudges against 3 different people at a time. Spending time with Him, the Light of the World, might actually bring light to the toxic traits I would argue I couldn't see in me otherwise.
And, to think that God still wants me even then, with all of His glory and holiness, makes me want to stay away from Him even more, because anyone in their right mind would cut out someone like me—with all of my toxic traits—in a heartbeat. I would even go as far as saying I would cut me out of my life if I were someone else. (I mean, trust me, I would know. I'm with myself 24/7, and I can be quite the girl sometimes.) But, that's why a lot of people would consider Jesus to be strange, because even when we haven't talked to Him for days, can't even remember the last time we read scripture, He still died for us. And if He died for us then, I can't imagine Him turning us away now. Because while we're all trying make sense of our own behavior and toxic traits, it's hard trying to figure out why God still wants something to do with us, not being able to comprehend that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His ways are higher than our ways. He's a God who cannot be understood with mere logic, a God that surpasses all understanding. He's a God who is familiar with all of our toxic traits and is kind enough to send the Holy Spirit to let us know He understands us, even when we don't understand us.