Recently, I’ve been saying goodbye to a lot of people. They’ve been with me for a long time–some much longer than others, some for only a short time. Some have been with me almost all my life.
No, there haven’t been a lot of deaths around me lately. What I’ve been doing is saying goodbye to the people who have been residing in my head, rent-free, for a long time.
There’s the angry parishioner, with his myriad complaints about the my preaching, my family, the way I keep house, church finances, Christmas Eve services–you name it, there’s a complaint for it. Sometimes, I replay conversations I’ve had with past parishioners over and over in my head. Sometimes, I’m saying what I wish I had said at the time. Other times, the conversation plays out exactly as it did the first time it happened–word for word–I have a very vivid memory for complaining parishioners.
So recently, as I’ve been replaying some of these conversations in my head, I’ve ended them like this:
Me: Thank you for your critique. I have noted it, many times over, but now I’m going to have to ask you not to bring it up any more. In fact, I’d like for you to leave.
Parishioner: But, I want you to really feel bad about what you’ve done (haven’t done, done wrong, etc.)!
Me: I realize that, but your presence in my head is not healthy for me, and I can pretty much guarantee that the real-life version of you has long since forgotten this particular encounter, and I think it’s time I gave it up as well.
Parishioner: But…but…I have more to say…
Me: Then say it to someone else. I’m giving you over to Jesus now. You’re his problem.
Some of them have tried to come back, but mostly they’ve stayed away. Voices of long-past acquaintances and friends go away quickly if you ignore them long enough.
I’ve also kicked out some random angry and upsetting people I’ve met throughout my life–like the sarcastic Pittsburgh airport shuttle driver, the guy who hit my car head-on (twice) in Chicago, the teacher who made me stand during lunch in elementary school because I whispered to my neighbor, and so many others. Some of them have needed a letter of eviction–I’ve actually had to write to them (though I didn’t physically deliver the letter), in order to get them to cease and desist. The people who live rent-free in our heads can be difficult to get rid of! They’re worse than stray cats you can’t seem to shoo from under your front porch, or house guests who just don’t know when to GO HOME.
Maybe I’m different. Maybe I hold onto these things far longer than others do in my situation. But I suspect not. I suspect that we all hold onto grudges, and past hurts, and frustrating people who just keep coming back into our heads, seeking our time and energy. If I’m right, and I’m not the only one who deals with this, then I say we should all kick out these unwanted and unwelcome head guests. Let’s all say goodbye to the creeps and the jerks and the malcontents who occupy the square footage of our brains. Let’s take back our headspace!
But when you do kick out those who’ve overstayed their welcome in your noggin, do it nicely, with a smile–after all, they’re going to be homeless now, and nobody wants to be in that situation. Give them over to Jesus instead–he loves them, even when we can’t.
Blessings, and keep your cool,