Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Game Player

Anger is a normal part of life, no matter how hard we try to avoid that emotion. I foolishly try to control my own anger when it flares especially when the pot is stirred by a situation or a person I cannot control, namely, the game player. I work hard to control my own reactions. I try to remember the words of a former colleague of mine, a man who reminded me of the importance of having a sense of humor when a situation is bad. It helps me downplay the drama or at the very least, to restrain me from adding more fuel to the flames.

Yet, I also realize that anger cannot be fully suppressed at times and to try to squelch it completely is probably not healthy. I may bite my lip but my teeth will still grind at night. I may laugh it off, but the tears of frustration will still fall in a different hour. Muscles will cramp and an innocent stray obstacle in my path will be cursed and kicked. So, what am I to do to alleviate the stress that stems from anger? Usually the answer is to confront the situation head on, as difficult as that may be. But in some situations, that is the least wise option. And when that’s the case and stepping out of the path of the fire isn’t a choice either? Well, that’s when I rally the troops and I strengthen my resolve. I wish I could write the specifics of what has me so angry tonight, but I cannot. Still, it's time I work through this so I can beat the game player at his own game. I just wish I didn't have to do this as often as I do. It's exhausting and my anger is justified for the energy it takes to keep playing this game takes me away from more important people.

Although I wish I could hold onto the belief that people can change, no matter how many transgressions are in their past, I know better. The idiom, “A leopard can't change its spots” applies here. I am not talking about someone I’ve had limited experience with or someone whose perspective I simply do not know or agree with, no, I’m talking about someone whose practices and whose behaviors consistently show them to be vindictive, vain, and emotionally abusive. There will be no great revelation or redemption for this individual any time soon because they see no reason to change. But oh, despite their past pledges to learn and grow, words spoken when their back was against the wall, I was never fooled, not for a minute. The seediness is at their core. Once a game player, always a game player. And thus, the games play on.

Those who never learned how to act in appropriate manners continue to turn to manipulative and unsavory ways. I wish I could sidestep the games but unfortunately I cannot without abandoning what is at the very center of who I am and what I believe in. My compass, however, becomes governed by the lessons I want my children to learn. When I or others have been wronged by the game player, I think on what advice or guidance I would give my kids. And so, in hopes of giving myself direction on how to continue on from here with the game player, here are ten things I’d tell my children.

1. Don’t let the bad guys win. Do what is right, not what is easy. Always.
2. Be honest but know there is no shame in holding your cards close to your chest when you’re playing cards. The cards will be revealed but you won’t win if you don’t play them at the right time.
3. If you lose one time, it doesn’t mean you cannot return to battle again. Retreat if necessary, go figure out what went wrong, and find your way back to the game so you can put to play a better strategy. Just don’t get caught up in the game itself.
4. Look your opponent straight in the eyes. Really look. You’ll see something and they will know they’ve been exposed.
5. Don’t let a game player’s words shake you or make you doubt yourself. That’s their best move, to play upon your goodness, your tendency to find fault in yourself which is your natural habit in order to better yourself. Don’t give them ammunition to use against you.
6. When you fail to find your next words to say to them, smile. Don’t laugh, just smile. It will disarm them, at least momentarily.
7. Wash your hands when you walk away. Let the water soak into your skin and remind yourself that your time with the game player’s dirt will not rub off on you.
8. Remind yourself of specific people who will be helped by your brave actions today, tomorrow, or in the future. It’s not always about saving yourself but of saving something or someone who will come after you.
9. Believe that despite the bleakest forecast, you have a power that cannot be completely ineffective. Trust that something you did or said will plant a seed that someday, in the worst of situations, might take root and grow. You may not see proof of that, but trust it has a chance. Maybe this won’t happen but imagine if it did.
10. Ask God to be by your side as you do battle today, tomorrow, and in the future. He knows your heart and your soul and you have no better ally than Him.

So, let’s play, game player. Bring it.

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