Joy Stealers

Joy Stealers April 19, 2012

I just had the most unsettling exchange with a woman at the gym.  She was rude.  She was confrontational (even about topics on which we agreed!)  She started my day on such a negative note.

She was a “joy stealer”, as my mom likes to call them.  Joy stealers are those people, interactions, situations that just sap the joy out of one’s life.  They take it and hoard it.  They are the bushels that hide the light in the “This Little Light of Mine” song.  They are Joy Stealers and I struggle with them.

My immediate reaction was to walk away from the conversation.  I could see it going nowhere and this lady was bringing me down fast.  We parted ways without a goodbye.  My second reaction was to tell someone else about it.  To externally process the conversation is my way of dealing with things, but there was no one around with whom to process.  So where to go next?  After this I wanted to chase her down and tell her what a downer she was, how she had stolen my joy and I was angry about it!  She was nowhere to be seen.

As I was walking with my daughter to the car, I realized what I really needed to do in this moment.  I needed to pray.

I needed to lift up this woman, this joy stealer, because I recognize she needs love.  She needs more joy in her life.  She needs Christ.

And so do I.  Every day.  He is the Source of my Joy and without Him, I am nothing.  Without Him, I surely can steal joy from others as well.  Above all, I am called to love this woman, to minister to her, and show my Joy so that she might partake of that goodness.  What a challenge when all I really feel like doing is yelling at her!

“You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

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  • Juris Mater

    Sorry Bethany, what a downer. As a mom with kids, I always feel particularly vulnerable when people attack like that. I’m not exactly on my A-game to fight back OR to handle the situation calmly when my day consists of loving and shepherding little ones. I’m just always caught off guard.

  • Elijah

    May I ask what the conversation was regarding?

  • Dr. KanneDo

    Sadly, these people are all around us, but it does you absolutely no good to get dragged down by their bad attitude. Kudos to you for realizing that you shouldn’t let this ruin your day and taking steps to reverse the effects of your confrontation. And to sum of the list of cliches I just listed, things can only get better now.

  • Elizabeth

    That is such a difficult situation! I struggle with that personality type in my extended family, and it is such a battle (interally) for me to maintain my peace and cheerfulness and still stand up for Truth. Thoughts?

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    The conversation began with us talking about global change and her perspective that Japan has “done things right” with little suburban sprawl and utilizing more of their population (lower unemployment to prove it). To this (which I have very little knowledge of Japanese culture) I nodded and affirmed (I am a peacemaker), only to get a few confrontational replies from her which startled me. Our conversation turned toward education, tutoring, the development of schools and technology. I suppose I took on a more traditional view then when I shared that I dislike how modern classrooms have moved away from tangible textbooks to online resources. She shot back with opinions that I was being obtuse and not thinking with innovation. I continued to try to dialogue, but every idea she gave that I attempted to affirm, she responded with “no” and more negative comments. It was getting ridiculous and became more and more obvious to me that I was never going to appease this individual… My last comment offered the hope that technological changes are being made in schools, but more slowly and on a micro level to which she openly confronted. It was then I knew I needed to leave!!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    One last note–I should have known the conversation was heading in the wrong direction at the start when she described the many different jobs she did and I replied with “Oh, you’re a Jack of all Trades”, thinking I was paying her a compliment. Instead she seemed offended by that remark and retorted that she was an “innovator”. I replied that I actually think people with “jack of all trades” skills are really impressive and she completely disagreed… Oy vey! I couldn’t win with this one!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    My hope is that I only have to endure conversations like this in small doses. I recommend you doing the same with the family members who are tough to handle. Make sure to give yourself plenty of “outs” if you know you’re going to be around each other for extended time periods! God bless you!!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Thank you! If anything, I am more resolute now on teaching my children how to appropriately exchange ideas with others (even those who have different ideas) without disgracing, patronizing, or ostracizing the other person. I’m really going to continue to pray for this lady. I wonder what she was like growing up… Has this always been a character trait of hers? Does she come to the Y to find acceptance or battles?

  • Kellie “Red”

    I have serious concerns for the state of that woman’s soul if she was able to steal even a bit of your joy!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Thanks Kel! I just wish I had my old college roommate there to help. You would have totally had my back. 🙂

  • Amy

    I had a ‘friend’ like that. She was looking for a fight ALL the time, scrutinizing every word I said, evaluating even my most benign, off-hand remark, dukes up and ready to go. I felt bad and unspiritual (:), but eventually (but not nearly soon enough) did what we should do with all poisonous substances: Avoid like the plague.

    So sorry for your dismal start to the day, but yay for you for turning it around and heaping love on someone who really needed it!

  • Elizabeth McD

    (Not the same Elizabeth….) I have the same problem with my MIL, or a similar one. I am ALWAYS on guard about what I say and what she may pick up on. It’s exhausting. It’s just who she is, who she always has been, with everyone. We try to let her lead the topics (and don’t argue) or distract her with something specific. But when we’re at their house, I’m very eager to take care of cooking (she’s older) or take the kids to see the garden, etc. In other words, I try to have positive reasons to not just be sitting in one space for a very long time.just.talking….

  • maryalice

    B, thanks for sharing about the way that you processed this experience, in particular your desire to talk it over with someone. When I have a stressful social interaction I often feel that same need, but I am not sure if it is gossipy and will just make things worse, so I have been trying to stifle it, but I do think sometimes it is just about processing.
    Thankfully, I have one good friend who I know can listen and sympathize without adding fuel to the fire when I am on a rant.
    I have some other peace-stealing triggers, and I have also been bringing them up in confession trying to get some direction about how to handle them, and also some actual grace to do better the next time around. I find that the more I go to confession the better I am doing with my bad spiritual habits in general – not sins, exactly, but more like tempermental tendencies which knock me down a bit.

  • maryalice

    Elizabeth, I often feel the same way, not about my MIL specifically, but in social situations where there is just too much sitting around and talking. I think that yours is a really good strategy, and another that I have observed (might not work as well with older family members) is to try to have the get togethers at more fluid, active places, like a park or bowling, where there is a source of conversation other than politics, gossip or people’s health problems!

  • Jaime

    Totally, totally agree with Red on this one. lol.;)