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How good are you at putting on your gas mask?

Does it ever amaze you how our brain works?  Probably one of the most stunning displays of our brains comes anytime we "work through" something we just haven't been grasping, right?  When we finally "get it", we just stand there all excited and celebrating our moment of success.  More important than the stuff we finally "get" is the times when we try to justify what we are saying or doing through some warped impression we might just be holding onto.  It is like the times when we outright act one way, all the while knowing we are being asked by God to act an entirely different way.  We somehow tell ourselves it is okay because God is gracious, or it is going to work out well for us in the end because God has everything in control.  Truth is - God does have everything in control, but the thing we are pursuing may be the furthest from what God intends for us!  What we need more than anything else in our lives is for God to do the intensive "straightening out" of our lives, because we just keep making a mess of things!

But if our wrongdoing only underlines and confirms God’s rightdoing, shouldn’t we be commended for helping out? Since our bad words don’t even make a dent in his good words, isn’t it wrong of God to back us to the wall and hold us to our word? These questions come up. The answer to such questions is no, a most emphatic No! How else would things ever get straightened out if God didn’t do the straightening?  (Romans 3:5-6 MSG)

Yesterday, we explored the "toxin" of bad character - "caustic" relationships which just keep getting worse instead of better.  Today, let's dig a little deeper into this subject.  When the caustic individual and frequency of contact with that person can be limited, we often find we can "take it" a little better than when we have frequent contact with the individual, right?  Be in a situation where you have to be face-to-face with this "caustic" individual all the time and you almost find the "essence" of what they produce to be just overwhelming to your emotional "senses", don't you?  You just want to get a breath of fresh air, but there is none to be found!  Most of us just cannot pick up and move to a new work environment at the drop of a hat, or we cannot just choose to ignore our family and choose another.  We must make the best of what we consider to be a "bad situation", right?  These individuals are totally "stuck" in their way of seeing life and we have to figure out how to deal with them right where we are at.

First and foremost, let me begin by getting agreement on this important truth: The only one who can control YOUR behavior is you.  The other guy cannot control YOU - they "influence" you a little, but the control thing is entirely yours.  Now, those are tough words, I know.  It is much easier to just say "he made me do it" than it is to take responsibility for your own actions.  It is much more difficult to see how YOU respond to the toxicity of a caustic relationship as YOUR problem, not the other guy's.  This little sticking point makes all the difference if we are to "deal" with the caustic relationships we encounter in this world.  We all have "limits", don't we?  We have that mystical point of no return where the other guy just pushes us a little too far, igniting some kind of response we all want to avoid, but which escapes quicker than hot lava from a volcano, right?  Our first thought is that the other guy just pushed us past our limits, isn't it?  We want to point the finger - because they acted a certain way, or said enough of a certain thing which triggered some response from us.  Nope, we focused on the action or words, and then we let them get under our skin.  Toxins are only effective when they make contact with the tissue they have designs on destroying!  

In my military career, we practiced what it was like to be "gassed" by caustic gasses.  Why?  So we would be ready to responds appropriately at the first hint of the caustic stuff!  We practiced holding our breath until we could don our gas mask, securing it over our heads and ensuring a tight seal.  Until we got this right, our eyes would water like crazy and our lungs were assaulted with all kinds of painful toxins.  We had to act quickly, or we'd be overcome. Now, the same is true in our relationships with others.  We have to act quickly and with practiced precision in order to not "react" to their caustic toxins.  It sometimes takes a whole lot of practice to get it right.  Until we see our ability to control how much of the toxin we actually ingest, allowing it to affect the inner parts of us, we won't be making much progress toward learning to manage those exposures!  Toxic relationships actually take a whole lot of practice to deal with successfully - so we minimize the damage to our inner man.  How did I learn about chemical warfare in the military?  It was because I had a good instructor.  My Drill Sergeant was concerned about us learning both the dangers of the toxic substances and the counter-measures to assure us minimal exposure to these substances.  His instructions was not enough, though.  I needed the proper equipment, as well.  Without a well fitting, properly performing gas mask, I would soon succumb to the toxicity around me.  We need both good instruction and the proper equipment to deal with toxic relationships.

Something I'd like to challenge you with is the idea of needing to extend forgiveness to another who has been caustic in the relationship.  The fact of the matter is, they probably don't even know they have been caustic.  The offense you have taken is really just that - something you have "taken on", but which the other person has no awareness of.  Most offenses are really because we sensed something (a slight of some kind) and the other person has no idea we experienced it the way we did!  Hold onto the offense long enough and you will begin to formulate your own set of toxins!  Forgiveness is something WE do - we let go, we choose not to hold onto the offense, and we choose not to let it damage our inner man.  If we were to realize not every offense needs to be a matter of "dialogue" between the "offender" and the "offended", but just something we choose to let go of, we'd be a lot better off.  Offenses from a truly caustic person are best forgiven quickly and then we move on.  To try to "talk about it" with the caustic person is fruitless.  The offense is something YOU sensed, not something they even care about.  Let it go and move on.  Don't carry the toxin - breathe it out and let it go.  

One other thing to keep in mind - when we have the right instruction, we know the right way to go, but when we have the right "gear" to deal with the toxins, we know the right way to respond!  Just sayin!

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