|(photo credit:Peter Jaret viamagazine)|
Decorative fences capture our imaginations and fuel inspirational imagery. Envision for example, a greeting card with a quaint village enclosed by stonewall fences with wrought iron gates, or a stately Victorian home surrounded by white picket fences. In a good Leanin' Tree card you could find a couple of old cowhands knee deep in snow, holding their horses by their reins, chatting across a weathered split-rail fence. What you probably won't find featured on a greeting card (nor on a motivational poster) is a barbed wire fence.
Some people are like barbed wire. In fact, we could call them barbed wire people. They are rude, disrespectful, demeaning, demanding, and condescending. They are hurt people, who hurt people. If you are involved with a barbed wire person, you are really just in a manipulative, control-based-relationship. As long as you obey their parameters, you can maintain a sort of false peace. That type of peace will eventually tear you to pieces.
Barbed wire people seem to have one purpose in life, making a stand to corral you, and just like barbed wire, they will hurt you if you rub them the wrong way. While it's rare to ding barbed wire, it will leave scars on anyone who forgets how dangerous friction with them can be -- like anyone knows who's ever torn their jeans or cut themselves trying to squeeze through a strand of barbed wire -- barbed wire people are very unforgiving if you cross them too.
If you handle barbed wire people with kid gloves, you'll suffer. If you tangle with them, you’ll suffer even more. They are combative, using every possible opportunity to engage you in an argument. Scripture warns us about such people, "As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife." (Proverbs 26:21 ESV)
A barbed wire fence is no respecter of people, and your opinions aren't respected by barbed wire people. Scripture might’ve had these type of people in mind where we read, "It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling." (Proverbs 20:3 ESV)
When a farmer strings up a section of barbed wire around a tree, the fence doesn't budge, you may have seen how the tree grows over and its bark covers the fence. Barbed wire people are recalcitrant and very inflexible too. And just like a fence, barbed wire people will snap if they are strung too tight. Scripture shows some personalities are dangerous, and I’m reminded of barbed wire people here, "A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression." (Proverbs 29:22 ESV)
If you are tangled up with a barbed wire person, the more you wrestle with them for your freedom the more painful it gets for you. Eventually, their cutting ways will choke out your heart and leave dark marks on your soul -- possibly changing you for the worse. Scripture warns against spending time with harmful people because of how it can change us, "Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare." (Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV)
The Bible has great advice for dealing with the barbed wire people. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39 -- He doesn't say be a doormat. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies in Matthew 5:44 -- He doesn't say be their prey. Once we recognize barbed wire people don’t plan to change, we don’t have to engage them repeatedly or stay in harm’s way.
What you might need for your own health, is an emotional wire-cutter to free yourself from the barbed wire people who hurt you. You might need to establish a few boundaries of your own, and sometimes a healthy distance starts with keeping yourself out of harm's reach.
Boundaries are like a good fence, they are healthy and they help us recognize where you end and I begin, where I end, and you begin. Scripture shows sometimes we need space from hurtful people, not as a form of punishment, but often times it’s the only way for us to have true peace, "Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease." (Proverbs 22:10 ESV)
Since it’s impossible to “fix” other people anyway, all we can really do is control ourselves and give people the gift of grace as we secure our own safety. Like in this proverb, we need to exercise self-control and not let barbed wire people cause us too much grief, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11 ESV) If enough people ignore or walk away from the barbed wire person, pretty soon that person can’t hurt anyone anymore. I guess the next question for us all becomes, “Are people walking towards me or away from me...?”