While attending a meeting in Orlando a few days ago, one of the speakers used the term, “sponge people.” I had never heard the term before.
He went on to explain that sponge people are those who get close to you and then suck and drain all the life out of you. Like sponges, they absorb whatever you have in you without giving anything back.
The meeting consisted primarily of pastors and I saw nods of recognition and agreement all over the room.
Strangely, the first thought I had was not of the sponge people I have known, and there have been many. My first thought was, “I wonder if I am a sponge person?”
As a pastor of some 40 years, I have always thought of myself as an encourager, a lifter-up of people, a sort of coach who says, “You can do this, I believe in you, now go get ‘em!” But, I wondered, am I still? Or have I morphed into a sponge person?
There is no doubt that the strain and grind of 40 years of dealing with people and problems has taken a toll. While there have been marvelous victories and times of exhilaration, there have also been down days and difficult people.
I have known my share of sponge people. Sometimes they are easily recognizable as those who gripe, complain, gossip, and criticize. Other times, the sponge people are more subtle. The common thread is that they drain you without ever giving anything back.
Sponge people beget sponge people. A sponge person can befriend a positive, encouraging individual and slowly drain the life and vitality out of them. When these people are drained, it is very easy for them to be drainers of people too. So, I wondered, am I still an encourager or am I a sponge person?
I hope that I am an encourager of people, but it’s important that I do an examination of myself. As I have done just that, I am a bit concerned.
When I leave a room, do I leave it better or do I leave it worse off? In discussions where there are differences of opinion do I see the good in the plans or am I always seeing the down side? When I am engaging in conversation with someone, do I leave them encouraged or are they discouraged as a result of my presence and words? Do I bring with me a ray of sunshine or a cloud of gloom? Are people glad to see me or do they inwardly groan?
It probably, I have concluded, depends on who you ask. Still, if even one person sees me as a sponge person, that is one too many.
In some ways, I come from a line of negative thinkers. My mother, God rest her soul, could always find the cloud in every silver lining and my dad (God rest his soul as well) always encouraged me to consider the worst case scenario as I embarked on my plans.
I was programmed to lean to the negative side. Most of my life, with the help of good people, I have been able to reject much of that programming.
I have decided that I refuse to be a sponge person. It will probably take some work for I fear I have occasionally given into the dark side of negativism which is a sure sign that sponge people have been at work somewhere.
When I think clearly, I can see the good, the beautiful, the hopeful, the delightful, the positive, and the greatness in people.
When I give in to the dark side, I become critical, negative, and a pain in the neck to be around. It ought not to be so.
There is too much good and too much God in people and in the world to give in to sponge people. And to become a sponge person is a great waste.
The world is full of takers but it is the givers who accomplish great things. With God’s help, I can do this.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at email@example.com.]