Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling

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It doesn’t matter who we are, as soon as someone mentions the term “meddler” immediately one or two people come to mind. But is there really a problem when a person meddles in the affairs of another? After all, we know we can help a person out, and what harm do we really cause if we give them a little unsolicited advice?


Meddling Has A History

As long as mankind has existed, we as a species have been studying character. In the earliest of days, we studied character to determine if we were safe to approach a person. Today, many single and dating adults will agree, we study a person’s character to determine if they are safe to approach. Little has changed over time.

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Character study has often been uncovered in some of the early scrolls belonging to the writings of the Judeo-Christian faith, wherein the books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, there was instruction pertaining to fools, scoffers, wise men, and virtuous women. Even Plato and Aristotle could not avoid delving into the subject matter. It was Theophrastus, Aristotle’s student, who took the study of human character to a foundational level by crafting the first documented thirty sketches of human character. This was the pioneering effort in clearly defining a recognizable catalogue of human characters.

John Earle, a long descendant of Theophrastus, shared his greater definition of a meddler, when he wrote in 1628, “Is one that has nothing to do with his business, and yet no busier than he, and his business is most in his face. He is one who thrusts himself violently into all employments, unsent for, unfed, and many times unthankt; and his part in it is only an eager bustling, that rather keeps ado than does anything. He will take you aside and question you of your affair, and listen with both ears, and look earnestly, and then it is nothing so much yours as his. He snatches out of your hands what you are doing and cries, ‘Give it to me’, and does it worse, and lays an engagement upon you too, and you must thank him for his pains.”

Meddlers, surprisingly have not gone unnoticed in the literary world, for assigned to the listing of synonyms for the word “meddler” are words such as: hinder, impede, impose, intrude, encroach, pry into, snoop, butt in, come uninvited, and to stick nose in where it does not belong. Terms related to the term “meddler” include: come between, divide, estrange, interfere, put at odds, aggravate, disrupt, exasperate, give trouble, irk, make it tough, put in a spot, and finally…upset. By every literary and historical connotation, there is nothing positive contributed to society or an individual by the behaviours resulting from the characteristic of a meddler.


What Exactly is Meddling?

Merriam – Webster defines meddling as: “to interest oneself in what is not one’s concern; interfere without right or propriety.”

The meddler is an individual who has a strong need to feel control and social influence. There is an internal drive to always seek out a ways and means to satisfy that need. Meddlers walk through life harbouring a common psychological trait, a real or imagined inner belief that they have a highly established knowledge base in a particular area, and that they are more than capable of influencing any situation for the better.


The Reality That Meddlers Don’t Want You To Know

A meddler is often confused as to the real subconscious reason for injecting themselves into someone else’s affairs.  Meddlers often act out of reasons which have more to do with themselves than anything else. Usually, a meddler is acting to feed their own feelings of self-worth or in an evidentiary way, to lay hold of the praise they receive from lending a hand.  Meddlers often act out of selfish reasons faking thier outer expression of a motivation based on the spirit of giving.

There is a loud, yet silent cry, which resonates from the soul of all meddlers. At their core cries the words, “My life is incredibly boring. Some areas of my life are a mess and are way out of control. The only way I can feel whole again, and feed my need to be in control, is to barge into your affairs uninvited, controlling them for you.”

If we are going to bring around us, people who can relate to us on a healthy level, then we must realize that a healthy and helpful friend acts in a way that will help us get what we want, not worrying about what’s in it for them. A meddling person acts to further his or her own agenda. Their actions are only self-centred.

When a healthy person is being helpful they might present a person, after being invited to do so, with a set of suggestions or ideas that could help that person achieve their desired results, but then they leave the rest up to that individual perfectly content if the ideas are acted upon or not. A meddler will take the matter several steps further by imposing a direction on that individual, instead of allowing them to make their own choices and act on their own.

A meddler is an extremely selfish and self-absorbed person.

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Meddling in the Religious Community

The one area in society, the religious community, is where most would expect the issue of meddling to not exist, but in reality it is perhaps far more prevalent per capita than in the secular or non-religious society. In the religious community there is such a prevalent grouping of meddlers who are quickly willing to “intervene” in your life as a “brother or sister in the Lord!”

There are many in church settings who believe they are called to minister to others in “the family”, by coming along side them and shepherding them, even when uninvited or not welcomed.

How quickly the religious community turns a blind eye to what the Judeo-Christian scriptures say about the act of meddlers.  Meddling is not cheaply discounted in the scriptures the way many church goers do today, in fact, it would bode the religious community well to realize that meddling is assigned the same degree of seriousness as murder, fornication, adultery, etc. (1 Peter 4:15, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”) While many church attendees are quick to accuse others of extra marital affairs, divorce, or riotous living, how seldom does society hear of those same people taking a stand in the religious community against an act of equal biblical disdain – meddling? Perhaps meddling is the acceptable sin.


Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling

Addressing the meddlers in our lives begins with being able to discern character. Until we develop the ability to look at the friends around us and learn how to determine the “sheep from the goats”, or the “healthy from the unhealthy” in our lives, we will never truly move forward to the best of our ability. Too quickly we look at financial success, charm, looks, humour, educational accolades, life accomplishments, and talents, failing to look more deeply.

The people who are healthy influences in our life are the relationally “safe people” who help draw us closer to our fullest potential. While no one is perfect, and we all harbour our share of flaws, relationally safe people are solid enough in their own character that their overall influence on our life is a positive one, and not a negative or detrimental influence.

Meddlers, through their act of meddling, are not relationally safe or healthy people.


About the Author : “Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling” is written by James C. Tanner, Author of Excelling In The Face Of Personal Chaos  .

James C. Tanner is a highly published writer, author and business coach who has written heavily on topics related to business, marketing, and psychology. In June of 2007, when all publishers had completed their tallies, it was found that the accumulated writings of James C. Tanner was reaching a potential audience of 12,000,000 readers per month. James C. Tanner has founded, built up and sold his own businesses. He has written and taught business skills courses for clients such as the Government of Canada.



Cloud, Henry Dr.; Townsend, John Dr., “Safe People – How To Find Relationships That Are Good For You And Avoid Those That Aren’t”, Zondervan Press (1995)

Ibanez, Tomas; Iniguez, Lupicinio, “Critical Social Psychology”, Sage Publications (1997)

Meier, Paul, M.D., “Don’t Let Jerks Get The Best Of You”, Thomas Nelson Publishers (1993)

Roback, A.A., “The Psychology of Character”, Routledge (1927)



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  1. Your article on Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling was hard to read, especially the part pertaining to the religious community. My daughter went through a divorce in our church family, and the meddling almost destroyed us as a greater family unit. We had to leave the church community to find a healthier place as a family. I would never go back to a church setting again.

  2. I liked the article on Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling. I thought you did a great job on a topic that few care to address, but many need to address.

  3. Your article on Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling almost made me cry. There has been no greater destructive force in my life than meddlers in the religious community.

    1. Hi Mary, and thanks for your comment. I do firmly believe that today’s religious community has become polluted, diluted, and dillusional in it’s opinion of itself. There is rampant lack of health in the religious sector today.

  4. Your article on Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling, has really been one that my wife and I could identify with. We use to go to church, but had to leave it due to the problems meddlers were creating. What’s surprising is that they don’t get it.

  5. I liked the article on Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling. Great job! AND so true. There’s nothing I dispise more than a meddler.

  6. I admire your willingness to write such an article on Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling. You have no idea the crap I’ve been through, especially in the religious community. You are so right in your comments in this area. Nothing has been more oppressive than the guise of religious meddling.

    1. Thank you Richard for your comments. I do agree with you…the religious community does need to stand up and take notice regarding this area. They are crushing the spirits of more people than they are helping. I am not surprised to see the statisitics which prove the churches today are hemorrhaging members. In Canada, the number of church members have dropped on average, a staggering 18 percent in the last two years alone.

  7. Thank you for your article on Meddlers and Their Pernicious Meddling. There seems to be terribly wrong in our churches today. Meddling has become the norm.