Standing at the checkout aisle at a grocery store, my wife suddenly looked at me and said, “I forgot my license at home.” We were picking up some snacks and heading to the Boston airport to catch a flight to Dallas. At this point, we were already 45 minutes from home, but I knew we would not be able to board that flight without her photo ID. In less than 45 seconds, I knew what I had to do: drive like an idiot.
Rather than lose hundreds of dollars on our prepaid flight, I made everyone on the road pay. My wife put her head down in her lap so as not to see the end of life as we knew it. Our two little children just sat back and enjoyed the thrill ride as I pressed 90 mph and more with our minivan. Weaving in and out of mid-day traffic, it looked like I was joyriding in a parking lot. We made a three-hour trip in two.
I cannot imagine how many people I cut off, crowded, and just plain freaked out that day. It was a very rude and selfish thing to do. Sometimes when you are desperate, you do not stop to think of how you are treating others.
Users destroy relationships
Many times people become users because they are desperate. They have not eaten in a couple days and hear that you are going out to lunch, so they take up your offer to ride along. At the restaurant, they “suddenly realize” they do not have the money for the bill. You are stuck paying it. Everyone starts to hate such rude, selfish people.
Users take seconds before some even get firsts. They get people to help with their projects and personal interests but never have the time to help you back. It will appear to some that a user is just a self-centered jerk.
I try to be a very courteous driver. In that trip from central New Hampshire to Boston, I was not. I was so focused on my own survival, I did not care who got hurt along the way. Fortunately, I did not injure anyone (physically) and we arrived at the airport in time to make the final boarding call.
Desperate times can distract us
I have to watch myself at times. It is easy to become so focused on what I need at the moment that I do not notice the needs others have in their lives or the trials they might be going through. I might ask someone to pray for my need but never notice what they are going through.
God’s people should not be users. We should share mutually by helping one another, praying for one another, and giving generously. Here are some symptoms of a developing “user” mentality:
Using private property as if it were public
I know you need access to free Wi-Fi, but the fast food restaurant does not get it for free themselves. If you are going to use their services, at least buy yourself an iced tea. My family and I like to stop at McDonald’s when we travel because their bathrooms are always clean (unlike many gas stations). However, we hate McDonald’s food. I began to realize I was being a “user” by visiting their facilities but not contributing to the upkeep. If I stop at such a place, I feel it only right to buy a drink at least. If I cannot patronize the business and help contribute to the “free” service, I should find a highway rest area or go to a public library for Wi-Fi.
Taking more than one’s share
At church dinners, I am amused but annoyed when a person fills a plate for the person (or five people) at home who “couldn’t make it.” The church dinner was for those who could make it! The user has this sense of entitlement. Maybe it is like my mad driving and a sense of loss has warped her view of the world and she feels she has to knock everyone out of the way to get what matters most to her.
Distracting attention to oneself
Everyone hates a user at prayer meeting or testimony time. The user wants to take up everyone’s time with some need that really is just a chance to tell a story. He takes up everyone’s precious time telling a praise report that really gives himself more praise than God or ends up being a pointless story he just thought was interesting. I have to be careful about this in a classroom setting. I tend to get the teacher talking about topics important to me at the time, while distracting the rest of the class from what they came to learn.
Not dropping a tip
You are worse than a user if you do not tip your server at the restaurant. You are a thief. I do not care if it is a buffet. He or she is working for a living and your tip is part of that survival wage. If you cannot afford the tip you cannot afford to eat out. I figure 15% for a buffet and 20% for a menu type restaurant. Stop being cheap.
Asking, “Do you want that?”
Someone gets a new computer and the user will instantly ask, “Do you want your old one, or…?” Hint, hint, hint. Or even more rudely—they ask outright, “Are you going to finish all those fries?” Of course, we will all probably do something like this from time to time. I want to guard against this becoming a lifestyle.
Taking too much, then throwing it away
Wastefulness reveals a greedy heart. Taking more than you can use and then tossing it out means you stole it from someone else who could really use it. Love does not seek its own interests only, but those of others also. Sure someone might be giving away the thing, but do you really need it? It could be an act of generosity for you to leave it there for someone else who needs it far worse than yourself.
Seeing another’s blessing as your own
I know an extended family that has a rotating user crowd. When someone in that family moves to a new place, I can guarantee you one or more of this floating crowd will show up and move into the spare bedroom. I want to be able to rejoice with others when God gives them something, not see it as something for me to take over.
Talking to a user friend once, I asked him, “So when did you first start to be a cannibal?”
“Cannibal?” he said, thinking I had lost my mind.
“Yeah,” I responded, “from what I can see, you have been living off your relatives for years!”
How to cure a user mindset
Give. Find someone you can do something for. Instead of cutting someone off on the highway, slow down and give them the right-of-way. Make sure that every situation you go through, you give more than you take and help others more than you seek it for yourself.
Learn to love people more than things. I think Ephesians 4: 28 speaks to this mindset. Using others really means I am stealing from them:
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
Lord, free us from being users. At church, home, and workplace, help us see others’ needs and not push them aside in the mad heat of our own pursuits.