Is There A Terrorist In Your Life? - The One Year Devotions for Women

Is There a Terrorist in Your Life?

LORD, how great is your mercy; let me be revived by following your regulations. Many persecute and trouble me, yet I have not swerved from your laws. . . . The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever.

Psalm 119:156-157, 160

Some of us live under the rule of terrorists—people who will do their best to make our lives miserable if we don’t do what they want us to (and even if we do). These kinds of terrorists often start young—think of the toddler who throws nonstop tantrums or the child who whimpers whenever she’s displeased. Adults, of course, can be the worst terrorists of all. Think of chronic complainers, whiners, controllers, and “cling-ons,” as well as those who are verbally and physically abusive. Emotionally immature, they create an atmosphere that can poison the peace of anyone in their orbit.

When such people are at work, sabotaging an organization, Edwin Friedman calls them pathogens, identifying them as people who

  • are invasive of other people’s space by nature;
  • lack the ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors;
  • cannot learn from experience; and
  • have lots of stamina.a

Dealing with such people can be extremely difficult. If you are in an abusive situation, you will need outside help to stay safe. But the best way to deal with the ordinary, run-of-the-mill terrorists is to address their behaviors by changing yours. Stop allowing yourself to get sucked in every time they throw a fit. Find ways to create space in the relationship. Set boundaries you will not allow them to cross without appropriate consequences. Decide that you will stop overfunctioning so they can stop underfunctioning. And don’t forget to pray for them while you’re at it.

Whatever you do, find a way to take care of yourself, realizing that the healthier you are, the less influence they will have.

Lord, if I am encouraging and tolerating bad behavior in others by what I am doing or not doing, please show me what I can change and then give me the power to make the changes.

a Drawn from David W. Cox, “The Edwin Friedman Model of Family Systems Thinking: Lessons for Organizational Leaders” (essay, 2006), accessed September 22, 2011,

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