“Trolls are critics who gain perverse pleasure in relentlessly tearing you and your ideas down.” – Seth Godin
Think of that grade-school classmate who jumped on you for everything you did, or that coworker who dissed all your ideas (especially in front of the boss), or the neighbor who snarls at your innocent wave. These folks are “trolls,” and they make life difficult.
What happens when you have trolls in the family? We’ve witnessed several examples:
- A spouse “rags” on the husband/wife about whatever. In their eyes, they married the wrong person, and they aren’t happy unless they are reminding their spouse of their mistake through ridicule and shame.
- A sibling “dishes” on another sibling, usually (but not always) a younger one. It matters little how hard you try to reason with the child. Every attempt to show how he/she is being crass, they grow more troll-like.
- A teenage or adult child “dumps” on his/her parents about past shortcomings. It doesn’t really matter how sorry the parent is, the troll continues relentlessly, refusing to let go and forgive.
- A parent “digs” into one of the children, not letting any imperfection go unnoticed. We refer to this kind of trolling as abusive, and it is. A child of a troll parent is sheepish, insecure, maligned.
Trolls are not pleasant to be around, they hardly create anything, and they aren’t helpful to the family unit as a whole. Though they point at others as their problems, they are really knotted up and frustrated. And they are rarely rational.
So, how do you handle one of the above? Good question. We’re still working on it. Here are some ideas:
- Look inward. Are you being a troll? We’d like to think not, but maybe we are. Ridding our own trollish behavior will bring a lot of joy back into the family.
- Recognize the troll’s attacks. They are paper dragons. They are merely lashing out at you because of their own insecurity. When you realize that their behavior is really a weakness of their own, you are able to deal rationally with the problem.
- Don’t get angry. Trolls love to get a rise out of you. The problem is the troll, not whatever they’re trolling for, and your anger only validates their behavior. Be cool, be patient, and deal with problem.
- Allow time to heal. Trolls sometimes don’t let up; they seem relentless and unforgiving. But they do chill out if not empowered. If you can, let them fume by themselves somewhere. Time often smooths things over unlike anything you could say or do.
- Pray. God allows trolls for some reason, not sure why. We learn to love the unlovable when troll-like behavior creeps into our family. Jesus dealt with the worst of trolls on the cross, and he still prayed for their deliverance. Keep that in mind, especially when you’re tempted to give up on them.
These are some ideas. Having trolls around doesn’t make family life easy, but it teaches us to love the uneasy. It doesn’t matter who the difficult person is (spouse, sibling, child, ourselves), replacing “Trolls in the House” with “Love in the House” is the key.