To be upfront, this may get brutal, even though it’s not the intent. Behind it is love, with the hopes of bringing clarity and healing. Moreover, as I write this, know that these things are addressed to me as well. Prayerfully, this will cause all of us to grow, and to grow together. That being said, let’s begin.
A broken or strained relationship may be an indication that a person’s relationship with God is off-center. Obviously, it may involve both parties. When you get to the nuts and bolts of it, if someone’s relationship with God is off, it affects his or her relationship with others. Especially, if there’s a disconnect with love.
Are not broken or strained relationships ultimately the result of selfishness? It is also an indicator of pride prevailing in one’s life. Love is not selfish! One thing is clear, the flesh has more control than the Holy Spirit. Speaking of which, the individual decides who gets to be in charge. You decide if you’re going to submit to the Holy Spirit or the flesh. The Lord gave us the grace, or God-given ability to choose (read Romans 6:1-23).
Romans 8:13-14 – For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Relationships suffer when individuals rely on the other person to make them happy. In some cases, they expect the other to serve, with little or no return. How often have you heard someone reply, “because she makes me happy,” when someone is asked why he loves another? That could be a red flag. Happiness is an inside job, it’s not up to others to make you happy. Big time departure from love.
Love takes joy in the recipient, for the recipient’s sake alone. There is no expectation of return, or perhaps more accurately, no sense of entitlement. If you are doing things to get some form of response or affirmation, you’re not doing them for love’s sake. You’re doing them for yourself. Have you ever felt like you were being manipulated when someone did something for you? Some gifts are no gifts at all, especially when there are strings attached (stating the obvious, read 1 Corinthians 13:1-10).
Pride is easily offended and is one reason some refuse to forgive another. Oh, they may say they forgive, but they’re still holding a grudge. That is not forgiveness. Something is not right. Does Jesus hold a grudge? The clear answer is no. When you hold a grudge, you’re not being Christ-like, period! A grudge reveals one is keeping score. The Bible makes it clear love keeps no record of wrong. On a side note, not all wrongs were intentional. Similarly, some might feel they’re being wronged by another, even when they weren’t, because of a misunderstanding. Can you say, “communication breakdown?
Whose counsel do you seek when it comes to relationships? To whose advice do you pay attention? These are important questions, and that may sound rather obvious. How many Christians are taking worldly advice about spiritual matters? It’s important to realize such advice can be downright ungodly, though it may sound good. The wisdom of man is not as brilliant as some believe. Incidentally, some famous counselors are not as wise as they look. Since when does the wisdom of man eclipse the wisdom of God? Some of that counsel to which people listen actually appeals to pride. It strokes the ego and encourages self-pity. Some avoid godly counsel because it demands personal responsibility and change. What does Jesus require of those who want to come after Him?
Here’s what He said: If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it (Matthew 16:24-25).
Because some will not follow Jesus according to His Word, their relationships suffer. This underscores what was previously said: broken or strained relationships are a sign that someone’s relationship with God is off-center. Are you loving others in the way God intended?
The Myth of Give and Take
Some state that relationships require give and take, with equal percentages thrown in to complete the concept. They might say if a relationship is failing, it’s because those said percentages are unequal. To a large to a degree, there is merit to that statement. To be sure, there are those who serve in greater capacities than their counterparts. But even that is a mixed bag.
We’ll go deeper in this momentarily, but some serve more than the others out of dysfunction. There’s a wound involved that has led to being unbalanced. Of course, others may serve less because they’re narcissistic in nature. One can be all give, and the other is all take. This relationship model may work for a while, in which one loves to do all the giving, and the other all the taking. Not exactly healthy.
Giving is good when it’s done out of love. Take, on the other hand, lends itself to entitlement. There’s an expectation placed on the other to give. It’s hard to freely give when someone is trying to take from you. In some cases, manipulation comes into the picture. “I did this for you, you can at least do that for me.” In this case, when someone asks for the return, did he give in order to get the return? Is that considered love? Hmmm.
However, here’s another consideration when it comes to giving. If you have already made the decision to freely give and serve, no one can take advantage of you. No one can manipulate you, because the decision has already been made; even if the other person believes they’re getting away with something. It’s your choice, not theirs.
Perhaps a better approach to relationships would be give and receive. Let’s be honest, it feels good to give. What happens when giving is stifled by someone who refuses the gift? Frustration, perhaps? Receiving from others is not an act of demand; whereas, taking may lead to an unfair expectation. One idea behind receiving is providing a place where one may give. It has more to do with allowing someone the benefit of giving. Sometimes in the Christian community, you might hear someone say, “Don’t steal my blessing.”
Receiving gives someone the opportunity to give. Which in itself expresses give and receive. Take tends to be more selfish, while receive looks to benefit the giver, even though one is receiving a blessing by the other. Both giving and receiving are detached from selfishness.
One more thing about receiving: it connects to humility and gratitude. It can be humbling when someone wants to do something for you; in fact, humility is a requirement for receiving. Pride pushes the blessing away. By the way, God loves humility. Without it, one could not be saved. Are you grateful when someone blesses you in some fashion? If not, time for a heart-check. Humility and gratitude kill entitlement. Those who take from others tend to be unthankful.
Giving is an expression of love. Receiving allows the other person to express his or her love to you. Some call it one’s love language. Think about this, God freely gives out of love, with no strings attached. We have the autonomy to decide whether we will receive from Him. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Excess baggage often places undue stress on relationships. More specifically, those who carry emotional trauma from early life experiences have difficulty interacting with others. Those traumatic experiences may reach as far back as their early formative years. They carry with them triggers that aren’t apparent in the beginning of relationships. Sometimes they don’t surface until people are invested in each other. One obvious place in which this is evident is marriage. Please excuse the vernacular, but it makes the point: some didn’t realize they were marrying a monster the day the vows were exchanged. “He wasn’t like this before we got married.”
To be fair, most monsters don’t realize they’re monsters. It’s their norm. Very few are self-aware. On the other hand, some are frustrated with themselves, because they are aware of short fuses, but don’t know how to get rid of them.
Of course, not everyone has anger issues. Others are very manipulative. It’s easy to scorn those who fall under this category, but if we want to see things change for the better, it’s vital to employ empathy. This doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior. What you may not realize, is manipulation is a survival technique used by many. Those who grew in dysfunctional families had to find ways to cope with life. One highly used coping mechanism is manipulation, which manifests in many different forms. It’s not that these people are inherently evil; they are wounded and need healing. Again, it is how they survived their circumstances. Studies have shown that some home environments have the same stress levels as an actual warzone.
Some signs of hidden wounds include unexplained depression, unreasonable reactions, irrational fear and so on. It affects the way people see life, and thus, people are surprised when someone reacts or responds completely differently than expected. In short, people need help. They need to connect with the love of God and have others available to help them navigate through the healing process. They need empathetic people who will love them well. They don’t need judges, and yet, they need others who will also call them out when they misstep. To be clear, they need those who speak for their benefit. They need straight-shooters.
Ephesians 4:15-16 – But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him Who is the Head, even Christ, from Whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
When you experience the unexpected from another, it would be easy to write him or her off. However, love is not easily offended. No one dreams of becoming a monster as a child; they had far greater aspirations. The enemy sought their destruction. They were victimized, but that doesn’t mean they have to be victims. Jesus came to change all of that. John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
There is so much that could be said in this area, but for the moment we’ll end this on this note: we need to give each other room for growth. Love changes things. As the Holy Spirit leads, we may even have to hold one another accountable in the process. Relationships can be healed, made new and better. It does require a willingness and humility on everyone’s part. Ultimately it requires the love and grace of God.
Curt Klingerman has taught the Word of God over twenty-five years, with an eye for detail and truth, without compromise. Curt is also a singer/songwriter who has been involved with praise and worship for the same period of time. He has led praise and worship in a variety of settings including men’s conferences, women’s conferences, camp meetings, and a church he pastored several years ago. He’s a talented musician who often flows in prophetic worship anointing. He is the author of the book, “The Faith Of Jesus In The Life Of The Believer” (released June 15th, 2010). Curt was called by the Lord Jesus Christ to minister both in Word and in music, with an emphasis on helping people grow up into their calling – www.perfectfaith.org