People who suck the life out of you

So I just survived a vampire attack. Yeah, who would have thought it? And in modern-day St Louis, the heartland of America no less!

Let’s call her “Helen”. She had met with me once before. It was one of those meetings where the person shows up at a worship service and demands to see the pastor immediately.

She of course doesn’t stop to think that he might already have responsibilities during a worship service. Like…oh, let’s say…LEADING THE ENTIRE SERVICE!

So I tell Helen if she has to talk today, I’ve got 30 minutes before the next meeting. She says, “Sure, that should be fine.”

Thirty minutes later she is still telling me her life story, which is an endless series of hurts and disappointments. She recalls each pain in ultra-specific detail.

Finally, knowing I have another meeting starting immediately, I try to bottom line what she wants from me.

What she wants is my assurance that if she comes to my church, she will not be hurt again. This is interesting since none of her previous negative experiences were in a church.

Of course, I could make no such promise. A church is filled with people, and people have a tendency of eventually hurting each other in some way. But the only way to love is to make yourself vulnerable to human contact.

You can’t get any joy in life with bubble-wrap around the circumference of your feelings.

Now it’s several weeks later, and Helen’s calling back. I’m out of the office, so she tells a secretary it’s an emergency. The secretary gives her my personal cell phone number, thinking it’s life or death. The lady proceeds to bombard me with call after call that evening.

What’s the emergency? She simply wants to rehash the same hurts. Again. And again.

Finally today I took Helen’s call. When she starts into her same spiel about her life, I abruptly stop her in mid-sentence and say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”

Why in the world would a pastor not want to help someone?

I’ll tell you why: because Helen is in fact a vampire. An emotional vampire. And this kind of predator is all around us.

You see, pain for people like Helen is a badge of honor. She holds onto it like others hold a Heisman trophy. She has no intentions of giving it up, working through her pain, forgiving her oppressors and moving toward a place of healing.

She would lose herself if she did that, because her wound is now her identity. She specializes in staying wounded.

Without their pain, who would people like Helen be?

I know. You’re wondering if you could have cut someone off like I did Helen. I assure you it wasn’t out of anger, but only after repeated attempts to help her myself and by many others. And after pastoring for a while you begin to recognize the people who have no intention of letting you help them. They love being the victim, and wouldn’t give it up for a million bucks.

So the vampires prey on the friend with the Messiah-complex who’s gonna fix everyone. They’re a sucking wound whose currency is misery. Their sustenance is the attention that misery brings.

And attention is what they really want. Spiritual healing would actually spoil all the fun.

After wasting too much time on them over the years, I finally realized why they were being sent to me. It wasn’t God sending them so I could help them. No, quite the opposite.

It was Satan sending them to distract me from the ones who really wanted help. What a perfect ploy.

One of the best strategies to destroy a soft-hearted sucker like you and me is to send person after person who says they want help, but have no intention of changing. These people look normal but are in fact “emotional vampires”, sucking your energy dry. And that’s the plan…

They are sent so we’ll wear ourselves out spending too many hours on them, and then we have no energy left for everyone else. And after dealing with a few too many “Helens”, we become cynical and selfish with our time and energy.

And our current culture isn’t helping. Every day it seems like there’s a trendy new group of victims we can join and identify with. The whole world seems to be standing in line to be offended, bruised, or emotionally incapacitated.

Our national symbol should be the “pouty lip”.

The great thing about being a victim is that no one expects anything from you. It’s like when you were home sick as a kid – how awesome was that! You got to stay in bed all day watching tv. Mom brought you your meals. And you were never expected to do any of your usual chores because, remember? YOU’RE SICK!

Being a victim is the cart blanch, get-out-of-jail free card from all responsibility. And as a bonus, you get LOADS of attention.

Well, if perhaps you really are a vampire walking around in the daylight disguised like a regular person, consider this your little wake up call from a kindly old pastor…

We’re done listening to the whining. Sorry, it’s over. You’ve worn out your welcome.

If you have emotional baggage in your life or you have been slighted in some way by society, you’re not exceptional in that…so welcome to the club. This club is called “humanity”. We’re all in it together, because we’ve all faced something tragic and emotional wounding in life.

Sure, some have faced something so hard they honestly can’t function anymore. I truly feel for them. But if you are reading this today, sitting upright and able to dress yourself, then you’re problem not one of those poor souls.

Oh, I know…YOUR pain is so much worse than everyone else’s. YOUR circumstance is the exception. And as long as I’m a different sex/race/religion than you, I simply can’t understand what you’re going through.

Please.

While I may not know the specific journey you’ve been on, I’m human too. And that humanity means I understand pain. It is our common denominator, regardless of race, sex, creed or national origin.

Pain is the common ground for all people. In fact, our mutual pain is part of our shared human experience – it’s one of the few things that truly binds us all together.

That is, unless you’re a vampire. Then it’s just a tool for you to use to get attention and avoid taking responsibility for going to God for healing.

Hmmm, maybe that’s why Jesus asked the sick man laying at the pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be healed?” Seems the pool had become a place where people could make a living begging – some truly sick and some not so much. Maybe Jesus knew that to be healed might destroy the way the man had learned to cope with life.

Jesus knew that sometimes our dysfunction becomes our profession.

Jesus knew some people don’t want to be healed. They don’t want to get past their hurt, because they’d have to forgive someone first. They don’t want to participate in their own healing, because then they’d be expected to dispense that healing to others.

And then it wouldn’t all be about them.

I spent about an hour on the phone last night. This was a call I’m glad I took, from a friend who’s truly had a rough time recently. Actually, he’s struggled with one thing or other his whole life, it seems.

Funny thing is, I don’t get frustrated or impatient with him. That’s because he really is trying to change. So I don’t mind hearing the latest problem he’s dealing with, and then trying to walk him through the steps needed to come out the other side. I can tell he’s listening, and I know he’ll put into practice any steps toward improvement I give him.

That’s the difference. He really wants to be healed. And for that, I’ve got all the time in the world.

So, if you want to be well, get ready to participate in your own healing.

“Take up your mat and walk”

If not, just keep whining. Some sucker will eventually listen and waste their time on you. Don’t worry – you’ll get the attention you want.

But if you really want to be healed, I know a Man you can see about that…

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