Have you ever had the experience when you knew you closed another person’s spirit? Or, have you been on the receiving end where your own spirit closed or shut down? It is not one of the best feelings in the world. Whether it is your spouse, significant other, sibling, child, friend or someone we interact with on a regular basis at work, at the PTA, or at church, we can close off their spirit and offend them by our actions or our words. Intentionally or unintentionally, this is a bomb shell waiting to explode if we don’t address it quickly.
Closing a person’s spirit can be done through many avenues. Gary Smalley wrote in his book called Love is a decision has this list:
1) Speaking harsh words
2) Belittling a person’s opinions
3) Being unwilling to admit that we are wrong
4) Taking a person for granted
5) Making jokes or sarcastic comments at the other person’s expense
6) Not trusting a person
7) Forcing a person to do something he/she is uncomfortable with
8) Being rude to that person in front of others
9) Ignoring a person’s genuine needs as unimportant or not nearly as important as our own
Look at the list. Have you ever done one of these? Or multiple ones to the ones you love? I have. I have not usually done it on purpose or intentionally, but it has happened more than once in my life. We speak harsh words to our spouse because they did not put away the dishes “right” or the way we would have done them. We even treat ourselves irrationally at times. We berate ourselves for not doing something right at work or at home and them wonder why we have no energy, “feel down in the dumps,” or don’t feel like doing anything for days. Unresolved anger and the feelings of bitterness or anger will crop up at a later date and bite us in the proverbial rear-end! This is NOT the way God intended us to live.
Closing another person’s spirit can happen so quickly, so easily and so unintentionally! Watch the shoulders of your co-worker next time they are criticized by the boss or by you. They sink down. Their smile fades. Their spirit closes. Unless the issue is addressed in a positive or constructive criticism type of approach, the person taking the beating can feel defeated, lost and unworthy of anything. Be careful with your words! Be careful with your actions!
Time after time, we can close a person’s spirit and not even know it. The other person doesn’t show any anger or hurt at the time. They may even laugh at your joke. But, they walk into the other room or hang up the phone, and you have no idea that what you said hurt them or that your actions hurt them. Days or weeks go by and you don’t talk, then the next time you do have a chance to chat, you find out that what you said hurt them deeply. Thud.
If we are lucky enough to recognize a closed spirit, then we may have an opportunity to open a loved one’s heart again. Again, as Gary Smalley says in his book, Love is a Decision, there are several ways to reopen a person’s spirit:
1) Become soft and tender with that person
2) Try to understand as much as possible what the other person is feeling and listen to what they have gone through in the past few hours or days.
3) Acknowledge that the person is hurting and be sure to admit any wrong in provoking their anger or hurt
4) Touch the other person gently with a hand on the shoulder or gentle hug
5) Seek forgiveness – and wait for a response!
6) Never give up on trying to reopen their spirit – gently persist until you see progress
Relationships are important. They verify our value and worth. They increase our confidence. They bond us together in love. If you have closed a loved one’s spirit, try the approach above and see if you might just crack that veneer of hurt!