I always chuckle and then feel a little sorry for someone who just gets so caught up in the "fray" of disturbing the peace of others. Their entire life seems to gravitate around their ability to keep the pot stirred - and others get pulled into their "kettle" every time! I chuckle because I find their rantings a little humorous at times. They get worked up about the silliest things. I begin to feel sorrow over the lack of peacefulness in their own hearts and their desire to see everyone else as miserable as they are themselves.
Don't envy bad people; don't even want to be around them. All they think about is causing a disturbance; all they talk about is making trouble. (Proverbs 24:1-2 The Message)
Here's the thing - our scripture doesn't necessarily focus on their behavior as much as it does on ours! In fact, the first instruction is about our attitude toward them! Don't envy bad people - don't even want to be around them! So, in examining this closely, we find there is some "pull" in our own hearts "toward" this kind of behavior, isn't there? We often want to get in the middle of the muddle because there is some appeal to our nature - whatever that may be!
It is very easy to get "sucked into" the negativity of the moment, isn't there? Someone is ranting on, we come along, overhear their rantings, and in an instant, find ourselves caught up in the negative flow. Why? It comes "naturally" to us! There is something "natural" about complaining - we just aren't happy with what we have, who we are with, what position we hold, etc. Look at the Garden of Eden - wasn't this the issue there, as well? Adam and Eve had all the enjoyment of living in the very presence of God - tending the stuff he had created specifically for them to enjoy. Then, in a moment of time, they are caught up into the natural instinct of "questioning" and "reasoning" something must be better on the other side of the fence!
They reason through why God would have told them to avoid the tree in the middle of the Garden. They begin to rationalize something "good" must have been withheld from them. Now, I ask you, how could they even entertain this thought considering where they were standing and what they had been enjoying all this time? Simple - it comes "natural" to us to use our brains instead of our spirit! We listen to our emotions and our reasoning more than we listen to the still small voice of our spirit! We get caught up in the "fray".
In the simplest sense, the "fray" is any "competition" we are involved in. When it comes to envying those who really are drawing us into their "mess", we often are drawn in because there is a sense of entering into the excitement of the competition. What we don't realize is the competition is really a matter of will over spirit. We are choosing to listen to our emotions instead of our spirit. The sad truth is, we get "sucked in" because we respond quicker to our natural man than we do to our spiritual man.
So, how do we learn to "not envy" bad people? How do we change the desire to get "drawn into" their mess? Well, it comes by cultivating what will keep us out of the "fray" - settling the question of competition. When we determine to live according to the standards laid out in God's Word - a competition begins! Our own will is one of the competitors. Then we add the emotions! Now we add the influences of others who just don't see things from God's perspective. To this we add the tendency to listen without really "hearing" what is being said and we are fully engaged in the competition!
The way out of the competition is the reverse of the way into it! We change what we listen to - choosing to listen with a discerning ear - asking questions such as: "Will this bring me closer to God, or drive me further away?" "Will this honor the character of others, or tear them down?" "Will this involvement build up my own character, or leave me a little put down in the end?"
We change how we allow the perspective of others to influence the perspective God asks us to keep. In other words, we don't let the "opinions" of others outweigh the values of God. If God values each individual, then when opinions are expressed which tear down the character of another, we are lessening their value - so this is contrary to what God's perspective is and we should avoid it!
We stop listening to our emotions FIRST - beginning to "filter" our emotions through a series of checks and balances. In other words, we don't respond in a hurry - we take time to allow the Spirit of God to "filter" out the garbage, and to focus on the stuff which is really important. 99% of the time, we are in the soup we are in because we responded with emotion FIRST - then began to think it through later. In the end, we are often quite miserable!
Learning to reign in the will is probably the hardest of all these "steps" - simply because it has been the "driver" over our actions for so long. As we learn to reign in our emotions, we also begin to influence the will. Whenever we stop long enough to consider our involvement - we are "weighing" the benefits and risks of being drawn into the competition between our will and the will of God. It is often in the "stopping to consider" where we find the choice is made to move along without engaging in the competition. Whenever we "move along", we are taking one step further from the competition and one step closer to God! Just sayin!