In a classic Peanuts cartoon Linus wants to be a doctor. The always negative Lucy says he could never be a doctor because he doesn’t love mankind.
“I love mankind,” Linus retorts. “It’s PEOPLE I can’t stand!”
Do you ever feel like Linus? Having good relationships with people may seem like a nice idea, but sometimes you just can’t stand them.
Like them or lump them, you can’t get away from people. Learning how to deal with people may be one of the most important things affecting your quality of life.
We have a lot more control over the quality of our relationships than we may think. Whether you’re a social butterfly or hardly ever speak a word to another human being, your life involves people. And if you don’t get this part of your lifestyle right, you’re doomed to be forever miserable.
In all your relationships there are two bad attitudes about people that are guaranteed to make you miserable and unhappy. Here they are.
1. I’m entitled! Everyone owes me something.
The bank owes me an easy way to borrow money. The government owes me a top education. The boss owes me a job. My friend owes me time and attention. My coworkers owe me an easy workplace. The pastor owes me a personal visit. My spouse owes me sex. If everybody around me doesn’t fulfill their obligation to me, I’m miserable and angry. If something is not right in my world, it’s YOUR fault!
Do you hear how that sounds? Yes, the other people and institutions in your life do have their responsibilities – to you, and to others. Sometimes they meet those obligations well, and sometimes they don’t.
But the kind of mentality that is always focused on getting what you want and need is guaranteed to make you constantly upset. Thinking this way says, “I’m the center of the universe. Everybody must adjust to whatever is convenient for me.” And that’s bound to conflict with reality sooner or later.
2. I don’t matter to anybody. Nobody cares about me at all.
Nobody knows or cares anything about the real “me.” The only way to make myself worth anything is to do exactly what you want and expect of me. I’ll try and figure out what you think of me, and then adjust my behavior to what I think you want. If you don’t approve of me I’m not worth anything. And even if you tell me that you care, you probably don’t really mean it.
That attitude will also leave you frustrated and usually alone. It takes a certain degree of maturity to realistically understand what you have to offer in this world, and not worry too much if others don’t always agree with how you offer it. You may not be the most important person to every individual in your life, but you are important to some. There may be some people who don’t agree with you or even like you, but there are some who will experience you as a hero.
As my friend Brenda Avadian likes to say, “You may not be the world to everyone. But to someone, you ARE the world!”
So what can you do instead?
- Accept people for who they are. Trying to change others rarely works. Trying to teach a pig to sing frustrates both you and the pig!
- Choose who you spend time with. You don’t have to like or spend time with everyone. You have a choice.
- Take responsibility for your own life. If others give you what you need, be very grateful. If they don’t, focus your energy somewhere else.
- Both gratefully accept and graciously give help. Others need you, and sometimes you need them. Give and receive freely.
People can make life interesting. You can’t get there alone. So enjoy the ride!
Your Turn: Where do you see an entitlement mentality or an “I don’t matter” mentality in yourself or the people around you? Leave a comment below.
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