You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? Acts 13:10
Everyone knows miserable people who make – or try to make – everyone around them as miserable as they are. A poor attitude, continual complaints, and toxic behavior are the status quo, and in being around them, we find that our own attitude suffers. Their complaints often become our complaints as we get sucked into their discontent. Hey, that does stink. Now I’m offended too. We weren’t upset about anything before, but now that they’ve brought this to our attention, we’re disgruntled as well. Their resentment rubs off and we become worse human beings, just for being around them.
Paul and Barnabas met such a man in today’s passage. In the story, the apostles shared the gospel with the proconsul of Cyprus. Elymas, a magician and false prophet, had some influence on the governor and didn’t appreciate the apostle’s meddling. Wretched and jealous, he couldn’t stand the thought of the proconsul following God. So, he attempted to sabotage Paul and Barnabas efforts. Miserable himself, he tried to make those around him miserable.
I dislike being around people like this. I don’t like who I become when I’m with them. The problem of course, is that I can be like Elymas. Sometimes, it’s me who spreads conflict and misery. When I’m unhappy, I try to convince others that they’re unhappy as well.
Fortunately, I know the opposite kind of people as well. At work, those with gracious attitudes make me want to do my job better. At the gym, those who work hard and encourage others make me want to work harder and be better. When I’m around them, I find that I’m a better person for it. They don’t try to fix me. It’s just that their virtue is contagious, and I want what they have because I want to be joyful too.
We all know both kinds of people. The question though, is, What kind of person do I want to be? Do we want to be miserable people, spreading discontent? Or, do we want to be the kind of people who make those around us better? Our attitude, words, and actions matter. We don’t control the behavior of others, but we certainly can be an influence for good or evil in the lives of those around us.