Shapeshifting People (or How to Hold On Amidst the Chaos)

23 Jun

Shapeshifting people.  They used to be called chameleon people, but the term “shapeshifting” is more dramatic.  

It implies that, instead of just changing colors, they change shapes and all other kinds of characteristics.

Oh, and chameleon people were thought to change colors to blend in with their environment (i.e., they changed their hobbies, preferences, etc. to match the folks around them).  Shape-shifting people don’t fall into such predictable patterns as matching someone else.  They might.  Or they might not.  They can go off on a riff totally their own. The main feature of shapeshifting people is that they change who they are, with regularity. Not just new interests, but a whole different personality sometimes.

Some of them may still be crippled by childhoods in which they were mercilessly mocked for their preferences till they didn’t have any preferences left at all.  They change shapes with regularity, as a defense. 

 Others of them may have bipolar or some other diagnosable thing.  We certainly are seeing an uptick in things like bipolar today.  It may be more prevalent (in a fallen world, the DNA should be developing more and more mutations with each subsequent generation) and it may be that it is more acceptable to admit to such a diagnosis today, instead of trying to fake normalcy all life long.

I will admit, I love the idea that people are freer to tell me if they have bipolar now.  I will make allowances and try to help them.  Some, however, may use it as an excuse for never growing and changing at all, in their entire adult life, but just demanding that other adults accommodate their more outrageous behaviors.

As much as I see great hope for change for us all in the cross of Jesus Christ, I realize that not everyone will embrace that hope.  And some who have seemingly been genuinely saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ do not seem to feel a need to move on from that initial state, growing in their faith.

Can’t be helped.  But we can stay out of the way of their more outrageous words and behaviors. We can avoid being targets.

I believe it is possible to be a longterm friend with a person who is a shape-shifter (for whatever reason) without being emotionally bludgeoned by that person.  It consists in having standards for them (and for all friendships) which are plainly explained and  which they are not allowed to transgress.  

If they go over a line, I don’t believe in firing them as a friend.  I do believe in telling them that their behavior is unacceptable at that moment–to take a break and come back later when they are able to come up with a different tactic 

Maybe that seems cruel.  I am pretty sure it does to a bipolar person.  But is it kind to let her emotionally bulldoze me, knowing that no one else on the planet will let her get away with that?  To never clue her in on the fact that her behavior is universally alienating and needs to be checked? No, I will not do that to a friend. If she is pitching a tantrum, I will tell her, as I do my son, that we will talk when the tantrum is over.

I believe it is far kinder to tell a person, in exact terms, what it is that is offputting about him.  If it is offputting to me, I can pretty much guarantee that the same behavior has already lost him friends elsewhere.  And he probably never before had a clue as to why . . .

If he does not choose to do anything about his behavior, it will come around again in a subsequent cycle.  And I will mention it again.  Lather, rinse, repeat . . .

This will, at the very least, maintain my sanity instead of inserting me waist-deep in the drama.  

It will help maintain my integrity as a Christian, keeping me from getting into volatile situations with that person in which I say things I may later regret.  

That person is not the problem.  If he is a Christian, he too is a beloved child of God, as well as my brother in Christ.

But that is not a carte blanche to allow him to dump venom all over everyone in sight.  He needs to be encouraged to gain victory in that area, by the Holy Spirit’s power in his life.

I woke up the other day with the phrase in my brain, “Being forever friends with someone does not mean being his or her toxic waste dump.”  

There is a very real difference.  

One I hope to write about more as we all face more and more outrageous behavior in the world today.

One Response to “Shapeshifting People (or How to Hold On Amidst the Chaos)”


  1. Thriving with a Bipolar Friend . . . | iconobaptist - June 24, 2013

    […] Thriving with a Bipolar Friend . . . […]

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