Paranoid vs. Positioned in Christ

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

“Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.  Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”—Ecclesiastes 7:21

“Why are you so sensitive?”  “You think everything is about you don’t you?”  “You take things way too personally?”  You’ve either said this to someone or had it said to you as some point in your life and maybe more than once. There are times when all of us can get a little paranoid.  Where we hear things we think are directed toward us in a negative way and misconstrue peoples comments and thereby their intentions.  Sometimes people are not as precise with their words and so communication could be at fault. And other times our hearts just hear things that aren’t there at all, typically born out of our own insecurities. Usually it’s a combination of both.

This short and simple verse is essentially though a statement about self-centeredness expressed in the form of paranoia.  Overly sensitive and paranoid people are self-centered people.  When we think everything is about us we assume we are the subject of everyone’s conversation, good or bad.  A self-centered person will swing back and forth from self-righteousness to self-loathing.  They waver from an either “I am better than you” attitude or “I am so bad I’m worthless” attitude.  In this verse both are happening.  In fact both are the opposite sides of the same coin.  First, the person engaging in self-pity hears everything as a slam against him.  He hears benign remarks as personal attacks. Second, the self-righteous individual is one who fails to acknowledge their own sins. He has a difficult time admitting he is guilty of the wrong he liberally accuses others of.  His intentions and actions are noble and virtuous while others nefarious.  The writer suggests the remedy for self-centeredness is a good dose of self-awareness.  We are to take a good look in the mirror and to be honest about our own flaws and sinful thoughts and tendencies.  An acknowledgement of our own sins protects us from becoming conspiracy theorists.   We must begin to view ourselves as like others (normal in the sinful sense) and not different from others (special in the self-righteous sense).  This helps to dissolve a self-absorbed attitude and view ourselves and others rightly.

In addition, there is a price we pay when we believe others are out to get us. We push away and risk losing the relationships that are closest to us. The problem with paranoia is it makes your friends your enemies.  The servant in this verse is seen as a trusted and loyal companion. Paranoia doesn’t discriminate. It will claim your closest relationships. Those that love and care about you most are pulled into this false reality and made the source of conflict in your life.

Frequently taking things personally and becoming defensive at the slightest innuendo is a product of shame and guilt associated with our sin.  We don’t want people to see us; our weaknesses, faults, and sins.  But because we are limited at getting around being seen and known, we assume people know and are thinking the worst about us.  We all have insecurities that can flare up and make us more sensitive at times than at others.  What we need is to remind ourselves of who we are in Christ, specifically that we are created with dignity and worth (common grace) and have been gifted righteousness (specific salvation).  Reminding ourselves of how God sees us in Christ, allows us to be honest about our sins and imperfections knowing those things don’t detract from our standing with God. The freedom to be honest about who we are before Christ allows us to show grace to others; absolving them of blame and malicious intent because our shame has been covered in the righteousness of Christ’s blood.

If you find you are more sensitive than normal to comments, inferences, and non-verbals, here’s a few practical tips that will help your heart hear more clearly and balanced.

  1.  Where do you need to repent of wrongs you’ve committed against others?  How well do you acknowledge your sinful thoughts and actions?  You will become increasingly less sensitive to others as you see yourself as one who has offended. Read Matthew 7:1-6.  Remember one of the benefits of taking our “logs” out is it helps us to see and decipher others motives and actions more clearly.  This will help sort those comments that were truly intended to hurt from those that were  innocent.
  2. Have a friend monitor your responses to things people have said in your presence and your reaction to them.  Let him or her hold you accountable by having them help you gauge whether your perceptions are accurate.
  3. Don’t be afraid to confront and ask for clarification about something someone has said and its intended meaning and purpose.  For example you might say, “this is what I heard when you said so and so.  Is that what you meant?”  And let them confirm or disarm your questions.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Inquire in such a way that seeks understanding and not to attack.