There are several people I’ve had the misfortune of working with who complain and gossip every day, all day. If they are saying anything to anyone who is not a customer, they are complaining. It is very difficult because I can’t escape it. I’ve told them repeatedly to not do this around me because I don’t like listening to it and it isn’t productive.
Gossip is displaced communication. When you don’t feel safe talking to person A about your issues with them, you talk to person B. Meanwhile, the problem still exists between person A and you. Also, person B now looks at person A differently. You have just spread your negativity to them.
If this was any other environment, I could walk away. But I’m stuck with these people for 40 hours a week, every week, for what feels like forever. I’ve told them that their negativity is bringing me down, and one of them agrees. She said she’d try to do better, but it hasn’t happened yet.
I had an epiphany somewhere in the midst of one of their rants once. I remembered the story where Jesus says that if you are doing God’s will then snakes and poison cannot harm you. I also remember in pastoral care class that you can’t fix another person’s problems. Your goal is to just let them vent. Let them talk it out.
Perhaps this is part of the plan. I need to be able to endure this. I need to learn how to stand in the middle of the storm. I need to learn how to be Daniel in the lion’s den. I need to be calm and with God in the middle of this, and not let their poison affect me. Their poison isn’t directed at me. I’m just a captive audience. Maybe it is healing for them to vent. Maybe they’d be better off going to a counselor or a therapist. Maybe they already do, and it isn’t helping.
However, I can use this as a pathway to healing for myself. I can learn to pray and meditate during their rants. I can learn to stand there and not really be there, because they don’t really care what I think about their complaints. They just want to complain. I can see every time they complain as a reminder to ask Jesus into the situation, to be there, with me and with them, in that moment, in that painful time.
Why do I call this snake charming? Because their rants, their complaints, their gossip is poison to me. It is like sitting down at a park bench to enjoy your lunch, only to find out that stick next to you is a snake. I actually wince when they come up to me because I expect another tirade. But using this time as an opportunity to pray transforms that snake back into a stick. It is yet another reminder to seek God in all situations, and to try to see God in all people.