Minggu, 30 Agustus 2009
The 21 Laws of Relationship
The 21 Laws of Relationship
by Junior deSouza www.juniordesouza.com
In society, if we break certain laws we go to prison. In relationships also, if we break certain laws we end up in a prison--a prison of loneliness, isolation, and frustration. I call this Relationship Prison. I've been incarcerated there too many times! Weren't you my cellmate?
Most of the time we go on our own. We do not understand concrete laws that govern relationships, and therefore, we break them unknowingly and repeatedly--landing us in prison time and time again. We don't have to go or stay in Relationship Prison!
Happy relationships follow laws, unhappy ones are, more or less, lawless. God strengthen us.
The twenty-one laws to follow pertain to relationships already in progress. These three pre-laws, however, are simply guides for the selection process, before relationships happen.
Pre-law #1: Relationships are abundant, not scarce --- Being in Relationship Prison too long or too often makes one feel that relationships are rare, that there is simply not enough love to go around. Consequently, we cling to whatever mediocre or malicious person that floats into our orbit. Why settle? There's plenty of good relationships to go around, if you know and follow relationship laws (Ps 34:9,10, 84:11).
Pre-law #2: Know what you're looking for --- Where there is no vision people perish (Pr 29:18 KJV). Know the type of relationship you want. Many wander from person to person hoping to be saved from themselves, their past, and their sense of nothingness and emptiness. Consequently, they become a string puppet in someone else's theater. Understand yourself and enjoy your own company, and from this knowledge establish clear values for what you want in a relationship. You can only love a neighbor as you love yourself (Mk 12:31).
Pre-law #3: Break the pattern --- Don't keep drifting to subpar people! This repetition compulsion is a subconscious phenomenon whereby we keep repeating disappointing relationships until we "fix it" and "make it right". Make a conscious effort by the Holy Spirit to engage different, more wholesome, people. Be choosy. Intentionally go against the pattern and break it. Proverbs 12:26 (NKJV): The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.
#1...THE LAW OF FOUNDATION
Relationships flourish when comprehensively founded on the person, principles, and presence of Jesus Christ.
Any relationship's outcome will depend on its deepest foundation, its truest center, its strongest motivation for existence and continuance. No other foundation exists other than Jesus Christ (1Co 3:11). Anything built upon Him and His Word is sturdy, steady, and secure, while any other foundation will prove disillusioning when visited by life's ferocious realities (Lk 6:46-49).
For a relationship to fully flourish under God's pleasure, each person must contribute a personal spirituality founded on the Lord Jesus Christ. This means a daily, vibrant, growing relationship with Him and His kingdom. The deceptive counterfeit is when a person has a mere intellectual agreement with Christianity. This is NOT being founded on the Lord, but simply a person smart enough to recognize truth. A person founded on Christ is a born-again organism that is perpetually breathing, feeding, growing, and reproducing in Him in obvious ways.
#2...THE LAW OF PERSONAL WHOLENESS
Relationships flourish in proportion to the inner wellbeing of each person.
Whole individuals make happy relationships, while broken individuals make unhappy ones. The more emotionally sound the individuals are, the more relaxed and enjoyable the relationship. The stronger the individuals' sense of personal worth and identity, the stronger the relationship. The equation is pretty common sense.
It is a fool's game expecting someone else to be responsible for our happiness. Relationships often go belly-up because one person is unwhole and unhappy internally, yet blames their partner. Your life is your own stewardship! Become emotionally whole and filled with a sense of identity in Christ (Isa 61:1-3, Lk 4:18 NKJV). Then, and only then, will you be able to pull your weight toward a great relationship.
#3...THE LAW OF PERSONALITY
Relationships flourish in proportion to personality understanding and empathy.
We all were divinely designed in uniqueness and difference (Ps 33:15, 139:13-16, Eph 2:10). This means each individual contains a distinct set of passions, values, opinions, and behaviors stemming from their personal nature. Relationships crumble when individuals compromise their basic personality, or when it is not understood, appreciated, and encouraged. On the other hand, relationships soar when individuality and empathy abound.
The Bible gives us enlightening truths about human personality, which is ultimately traced back to divine personality. Some people are naturally powerful and strong-willed, like Paul the intense leader (Ac 23:2,3, Gal 2:11,14). Some are naturally peaceable and submissive, like Abraham, the compliant partner (Gen 16:1,2,6, 23:16). Some are naturally playful and sanguine, like Elijah, the sarcastic provocateur (1Ki 18:27). Some are naturally pensive and serious, like Jeremiah, the brutally realistic and weepy prophet (Jer 20: 14-18, 15:10, Lam 1:16,20,21, 2:11, 3:48).
Understand yourself and be yourself. Though a part of you will form a new identity with this individual(s), your basic person must remain intact. Some need to discover (or rediscover) themselves before they seek to discover another. In discovering another, celebrate what you find, though it differ from you.
#4...THE LAW OF FUNCTIONAL KNOWLEDGE
Relationships flourish in proportion to the functional biblical knowledge of each person.
Functional knowledge is "knowledge that is performing." It is acting on what we know. It is the application of information. In God's kingdom, it is putting biblical knowledge to work. Functional biblical knowledge goes beyond hearing, reading, and learning Scripture, into doing, practicing, and experiencing it (Jas 1:22-25). God told Joshua his success in conquering the Promised Land depended on his functional knowledge of the Scriptures (Jsh 1:7,8). The psalmist said whoever lives by the Law of Lord will be like a fruitful tree planted by rivers of living water, prospering in anything and everything (Ps 1:2,3). God's Word! Relationships depend on it as a light and lamp to illuminate the best way (119:105). Biblical ignorance and inaction have left many promising relationships withering and wandering in a hot, dry desert.
#5...THE LAW OF ROLE INTEGRITY
Relationships flourish in proportion to the role integrity and faithfulness of each person.
Role refers to the specific "job" each person performs in the relationship to make it succeed. Therefore, role integrity refers to faithfully practicing and fulfilling that particular job.
For example, in a biblical marriage, the husband is appointed the role of leader, the wife the role of helper (Gen 2: 18, Eph 5:22-24). If they are faithful and efficient in these roles and their implications, the relationship can succeed. If not, role confusion and role reversal will give way to disorder, conflict, even termination.
Also consider friendships. Some friendships are vertical; one person is clearly the leader, mentor, and teacher, while the other is clearly the follower, learner, and protégé. If this is truly the best scenario for both persons, then the relationship can flourish only if they are both faithfully fulfilling their roles. This does not mean the relationship cannot graduate into a horizontal friendship (walking side by side as "equals", with no distinct leader or follower), it simply means that in each particular season both persons must discern and fulfill their roles for the welfare of the relationship.
For example, Jesus had a vertical relationship with the disciples for most of His ministry. He had the clear role of rabbi and they the role of students. Then, at the end of His life, He declared them no longer servants, but friends, upgrading the relationship to a side-by-side friendship and partnership (Jn 15:15).
All relationships come with roles, even professional ones. Each person must assess the nature and intent of the relationship, and, what role they must fulfill to ensure the relationship's wellbeing and success.
#6...THE LAW OF MUTUAL COMMITMENT
Relationships flourish in proportion to the commitment of each person.
The modern proverb is true, It takes two to tango! A relationship flourishes when all individuals involved are equally committed and contributive. Different types of ongoing investments will be required for different types of relationships (spiritual, emotional, intellectual, financial/material, marital, etc.). The nature and intent of the relationship will determine what investments are appropriate and relevant. Are all persons willing to invest and give, and do so ongoingly? If so, there can be success. If not, the relationship deadlocks and becomes a one-sided project. Ecclesiastes 9:10: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
#7...THE LAW OF TRUST & SECURITY
Relationships flourish in proportion to the trust and security level present.
Trust and security, like many of these laws, grow progressively over time with positive experiences. Everyone needs the assurance they are relating with someone dependable, faithful, loyal, and reliable. Within such a safe relationship, persons feel liberal with honesty and vulnerability, resulting in a high level of intimacy and fulfillment. Relating persons must take extreme measures and exert meticulous efforts to perfect trust and security. Without it, suspicions, accusations, and paranoia threaten to swallow the relationship whole, making us hear what is not said and imagine what is not real.
Proverbs 20:6 (NKJV): ...but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 25:19 (NIV): Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble. Luke 16:10-12: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?
#8..THE LAW OF LOVE DEFICIT & PROVISION
Relationships flourish in proportion to love deficit and provision.
Love deficit refers to the specific type of love each person feels they need most. These "love languages" are well summarized in The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, though each language has subtle "dialects" (variations) from person to person. Love provision refers to the other person's cognizance and willingness to regularly provide that specific type of love.
For example, David had a tremendous love deficit from the ongoing shame and rejection from his brothers (1Sam 17:28,29). God sent Jonathan as a brother-type to provide the very type of love he needed to balance his emotional debt (ch20). Instead of shaming David, Jonathan admired and affirmed him. Instead of rejecting him, he embraced and loved him as himself.
All people, to differing degrees, pursue decisions and relationships by their love deficit, with the hopes of finding the corresponding love provision and rebalancing their heart. Emotional relationships (family, romances, close friendships) are the most susceptible to the power of love deficit, yet possess an equal capability to provide for, heal, and bring balance to those very debts. When people's love deficits are overlooked and not provided for, anger, depression, conflict, retaliation, manipulation, and chaos loom. Relationships are a place where God pays off our emotional debts. Be sensitive to this and discern what role you are to play, healer or being healed or both.
#9...THE LAW OF CHANGE-INCLINATION
Relationships flourish in proportion to the change-inclination of each person.
Change-inclination refers to a person's level of desire and willingness to change attitudes and behaviors detrimental to intimacy, or, certain benign habits that simply hinder or retard greater intimacy. This translates into flexibility, adjustment, and sacrifice in any and every way necessary to ensure mutual fulfillment.
Besides other purposes, relationships were intended to change us (Pr 27:17, Ro 15:14). A stubborn goat unwilling to change will never enjoy relational happiness. They will forever remain in Relationship Prison wondering what's wrong with everyone else. Don't you be that goat!
Relationship is the merging of two (or more) worlds and the creation of a new one. Some of the elements of these worlds are beautifully compatible, some can be made compatible with patience and wisdom, and some must be sacrificed totally. A wise person who enjoys Eden-type relationships understands change-inclination very well. They are ever ready to change themselves, willing to adapt, adjust, bend, compromise, submit, and sacrifice to walk in Eden with others. Not weak-willed, but soft-willed.
We cannot change others. You know that right? Many become obsessed with rearranging or fixing others, and fail to see this is codependence at best, manipulation at worst. Personal transformation is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit and the person's freewill alone. Certainly we can apply the power of example, humility, love, truth-speaking, confrontation, and other provocative agents to motivate change, but our efforts have limits, limits we must respect and accept. When each person in a relationship has a high change-inclination, their bond will never stop ascending into greater and greater intimacy and joy.
#10...THE LAW OF PEACE-ORIENTATION
Relationships flourish in proportion to the peace-orientation of each person.
Peace-orientation refers to a person's level of zeal to achieve and maintain unity and harmony in a relationship. I am not referring to a false peace or an avoidant peace-faking, whereby one person indulges or enables another person's evils. Peace-orientation is a bentness for true, interpersonal peace that inspires one to be solution-oriented, negotiable, and most of all, loving and humble. This quality is determined largely by the spiritual and emotional maturity of the person.
Scripture has a mouthful to say about peace-orientation. Paul said to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3, emp added). In the verse before he tells us to be completely humble, gentle, patient, and loving. He also said, "If it possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Ro 12:18). Jesus said, "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other" (Mk 9:50). Salt preserves...preserve peace. God's Word is commanding us to have a high peace-orientation.
Those with a low peace-orientation are constant perpetrators of chaos, drama, and conflict. Scripture frowns on them. Proverbs 29:8,9: Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger. If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace. Psalm 120:5-7: Woe to me that I dwell in Meshach, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
#11...THE LAW OF BLUEPRINTS
Relationships flourish in proportion to how each person wields their blueprint.
A blueprint is a preconceived model. Architects use blueprints to guide their construction of buildings. The imagination conceives it, the paper records it, and the workers build it.
Similarly, each person has a relational blueprint, a mental model of what they envision the relationship to be. This blueprint guides their attitudes, behaviors, and words, in minor and major ways. Most people refer to this simply as "expectations". It is, though, a blueprint. Their blueprint.
Relational blueprints are not wrong in and of themselves, but how people use them often is. First of all, we need to downgrade our blueprint from an expectation to simply a request. Venerating our blueprint too highly makes us selfish and self-absorbed, preoccupied with my wants and my needs. Intimacy, though, is always give first and receive last. We all have wants and needs, most of them legitimate and fair. But if we become experts at satisfying the other person's blueprint first, our faithful God will take up our case Himself and do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine to satisfy our blueprint.
Philippians 2:3,4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
#12...THE LAW OF ATMOSPHERE
Relationships flourish in proportion to a positive atmosphere.
Every relationship has a felt atmosphere, and this atmosphere imposes moods and compulsions on the individuals involved. An atmosphere of tension and nervousness typically provokes angry outbursts. An atmosphere of depression and hopelessness typically provokes secretive scheming. On the other hand, a sunshine atmosphere of hope, optimism, laughter, and friendliness provokes reactions of life, enthusiasm, friendship, and want-to-change.
Whatever we focus on in others we bring out in them. If we focus on their negative points, immaturities, and shortcomings--and constantly let them know about it--you can be sure that mess will increase. Bad attention is always better than no attention to the nonmature. When we focus on the good we want to draw out of people, the better they feel about themselves, us, and the relationship. The less they need to act out to be attended to. Proverbs 18:20,21, life and death is in your verbal focus!
If a sunny atmosphere prevails long enough, some negativities will dissipate on their own. Soften your face (Ecc 8:1), smile more (Pr 15:30 NIV), and keep laughing (Pr 15:15)! Someone will have to dig deep, rise up, and set a new mood in the relationship.
#13...THE LAW OF BATTLE
Relationships flourish in proportion to how the individuals fight, disagree, and conflict.
Some cannot conflict without personalizing the matter. They bypass the issue at hand and digress into personal insults, cheap shots, and disrespect. They attack the person, not the problem. This leaves broken feelings and broken trust in its wake. Few people are mature and resilient enough to walk on this kind of water repeatedly.
Others talk agreeably in disputes, yet resort to behind-the-scenes scheming and manipulation for revenge. These are the "guerilla fighters" of relationships. They do not conflict directly, usually because they hate conflict, yet find their payback in secret. This happens often in marriages where one spouse cheats secretly to "get back" at their partner, yet still comes home and plays the Cleavers. Many husbands justify pornography in this way, seeing it simply as payback for wrongs inflicted.
The above examples are war crimes, inhumane and illegitimate battle tactics. They destroy relationships faster than you can say, "That's not fair!" Here are a few tips for conflicting respectfully:
Discern the conflict's nature: emotional vs intellectual Some conflicts center on feelings--then talk emotionally, honestly, and vulnerably. Some center on differing opinions--then debate facts. Talk on the same level. Crisscrossing brings confusion and misunderstanding. If the conflict contains elements of both, then talk emotionally first (validating feelings), intellectually second (discussing facts and solutions).
Always give a fair trial Everyone has a right to explain themselves. Let them. Don't assign motives. Never assume. Delay verdicts until all the evidence is in. Listen to Solomon, Proverbs 25:7,8: ...What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?
Stay on topic Don't bounce around from issue to issue (women especially). Address the most pressing issue thoroughly until mutual satisfaction is reached. Yahweh dismantled Egypt one god at a time, not all at once.
Be solution-oriented; negotiate You can obsess over being right or you can choose to have a happy relationship. Seek solutions, not self-justification. Do you want to be right or alone? Let gray areas be gray areas, and let disputable matters remain disputable (Ro 14:1).
Open-endedness Some conflicts do not have an immediate resolution. Recognize this and be content to let time and the Lord unfold the best outcome (Ps 37:7,34).
Reassure Relational battles can make us question whether we are truly loved or not. Ignore ego and always reaffirm your love and commitment. Sometimes this is really at the root of it all--a simple need for loving reassurance (Ro 13:8, 2Co 2:7,8).
#14...THE LAW OF FORGIVENESS
Relationships flourish in proportion to the forgiveness aptitude of each person.
Matthew 18:32-35: Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.
The above scripture makes me tremble.Forgiveness is a spiritual aptitude developed through prayer, time, and practice. I will not say much here because I have written a thorough teaching on the subject posted on my website (Forgiveness..can I truly forgive? http://www.juniordesouza.com/teachingsi.htm ).
I will say, holding grudges, harboring offenses, keeping a record of wrongs, silently stewing and brewing, and planning counterattacks is sin, sin, sin. It will destroy the relationship, and according to Jesus in Matthew 18:34,35, God will "turn us over to the jailers to be tortured" if we refuse to forgive from the heart and let go forever. Hard words from a very forgiving Savior.
#15...THE LAW OF COMMUNICATION QUALITY
Relationships flourish in proportion to communication quality.
This is probably the most well-known fact, but least-practiced act. All relationships crumble or soar by communication, even non-emotional ones, since the tongue is every ship's rudder (Jms 3:3-5).
Communication is the act of conveying information. Everything living depends on incoming and outgoing information to survive and thrive--animals, plants, humans, nations, organizations, armies, businesses. Conveying information in its various forms (intellectual, emotional, spiritual, financial, sexual, etc...) is the nervous system of relationship. How many relationships are paralyzed and handicapped because of a malfunctional nervous system?
Soul dialects Being a great relational communicator, first and foremost, means understanding that each individual communicates for different reasons and with different vocabulary. In other words, everyone has their own unique "soul dialect". Soul dialects can be discerned by listening with genuine interest and thoughtfulness. Conversely, when conveying information, good relational communicators use the soul dialect of the listener (as much as possible), increasing their understanding and receptivity.
Jesus often used agricultural terminology to connect with a very agricultural Jewish mind. The typical Jew had a soul dialect filled with such imagery and vocabulary. When Jesus recruited Peter and Andrew, he spoke their soul's dialect also, paralleling their fishing experience with their evangelistic calling (Mt 4:18-20). Even in the Lazarus incident did Jesus speak Martha's language, helping her grasp the greater reality of spiritual life versus spiritual death through the death of her brother (Jn 11:17-27). Just as God speaks our inner language to reach us, so also good communicators are multilingual, able to discern and dialogue with the inner language of their loved ones.
Soul dialects are the foundation of all relational communication. Upon this though, there are other communicational building blocks.
Approach Everyone communicates relationally in one of three ways: parent-to-child (talking down; directing, instructing, counseling), child-to-parent (talking up; revering, complying, deferring), or adult-to-adult (talking across; dialoguing, negotiating, co-creating). If the relationship is a mentorship, communicating parent-to-child/child-to-parent is appropriate and fitting. If it is a friendship or romance, communicating adult-to-adult is crucial. Relationships should be prayerfully pondered as to which approach is healthiest and ideal for all involved.
Meaningfulness Communication should go beyond clichés and facts (men especially). It should be meaningful, revealing honest feelings, reactions, and needs (especially in friendships and romance).
Much more could be said about communication's intricacies. However, soul dialects, approach, and meaningfulness are the central pieces upon which the rest is built.
#16...THE LAW OF PROCESS
Relationships flourish in proportion to the process-mentality of each person.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Oak trees mature in 10-15 years. Little by little Israel took the promised land (Ex 23:29,30). Some things are developed only through time, like a healthy body, a successful company, or an amazing relationship. The more of a process-mentality each individual has, the more steadily the relationship grows, the faster it will reach a seasoned, fulfilling zenith.
Relational development is seasonal. This means each season has certain challenges and pleasures. The relationship only grows as it successfully assimilates these seasonal elements. If it does not, the relationship will come to a standstill, a stagnancy, a redundancy, remaining in that very season until it successfully assimilates the elements. Like Israel wandering in the desert, the relationship will wander in its present season until it does so.
Therefore, relational development is also sequential. As the relationship successfully assimilates its seasonal elements, it graduates into a new season and evolves. The relationship deepens, expands, and matures that much more. Intimacy and fulfillment increases that much more.
A process-mentality welcomes the fact that the relationship does not have to be "There" overnight. It does not have to be ideal or amazing right now. It does understand, however, that the assimilation and accumulation of seasons will lead there. The marathon perspective of a process-mentality silences I-want-it-now demands and calms us with the fruit of patience.
#17...THE LAW OF TEAMWORK
Relationships flourish in proportion to the teamwork approach of each person.
In relationships we do not lose individuality, but we must lose individualism. Individuality is our personal uniqueness, while individualism is a bent to hyperindependent behavior. Many in Relationship Prison have not understood or embraced this fine distinction.
A relationship is a team in every way imaginable, and the goal is for the team to win. When the team wins, each team member wins. Everything--literally everything--that is felt, thought, said, or done must be in consideration of our teammate. This is often a struggle for alpha males in marriage, whose tendency is toward a detached lifestyle and individualistic decision-making. However, through repentance, truth, and Spirit-powered rehabituation, he can become the interdependent team-player God commands him to be. Philippians 2:2-4: Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
#18...THE LAW OF TASK DISTRIBUTION
Relationships flourish in proportion to the fairness and efficiency of task distribution.
Every relationship has a "housekeeping" side. Certain tasks and responsibilities need to be assigned fairly and carried out efficiently. Who will pay what bills? Who will buy the food? Who will clean, and when? Who will pay for gas? Who will pick up the kids? Emotional intimacy is euphoric, but it will quickly dissipate under the frustrations of unfair or inefficient task distribution. Little foxes ruin the vineyard (SS 2:15). Make and keep good practical arrangements satisfying to all.
#19...THE LAW OF LIFE EXPERIENCE
Relationships flourish in proportion to the overall life experience of each person.
Life experience is not necessarily a sign of spiritual maturity. Practically, though, it is incredibly beneficial to a relationship's rhythm and flow. For example, managing personal resources, dealing well with different types of people, navigating change, social confidence, cultural literacy, physical health and excellence, understanding basic economics, and other life practicalities all affect the daily rhythm and flow between people. Most of Proverbs is devoted to this.
Many spiritual Christians continue having relational frustrations simply because they are inexperienced at life in general. They can pray for hours but can't balance a checkbook. They can quote Scripture but can't conversate gracefully or intelligently. They can name every ringleader in their spiritual movement but they can't count calories. I've been there.
All this translates into life experience, or wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but have you ever wondered about the middle and end of wisdom? The beginning of all wisdom is indeed spiritual, a reverent relationship with God yielding godly attitudes and behaviors (Jas 3:13-18). From there, however, it expands to every area of our life, even the most mundane. The outer reaches of wisdom deal with informed and insightful daily living. The longer we live on this earth, if we are open to new information, the wiser we become in life's intricate nooks and crannies. This Proverbs-type wisdom makes relationships flow a million times smoother. One less conflict about anything means one more opportunity for joy...apply that to several areas of life and you have a relationship sidestepping many difficult days.
#20...THE LAW OF SOCIAL INVOLVEMENT
Relationships flourish in proportion to the social involvement of each person.
Everyone requires relational and social connections beyond the immediate relationship--friends, loved ones, and quality acquaintances. Perhaps the most prominent trait of a religious cult is that it seeks to isolate members from outside relationships. Though most of us have never been so steeped in a cult, we have all known people highly possessive, controlling, and cult-like in their relationships. This type of suffocation is very dangerous. Not only does it snuff out the sparkle and joy from relationships, but any abuse happening can go undetected and unreported for years until something tragic blows the cover.
Several years ago I counseled a lady in her mid-30s who had been abused in every way by her husband. They attended church every week. She was not allowed to speak in Sunday School unless spoken to. She was not allowed any outside connections, not even family, until finally one day she called her father from a motel room. Her husband had threatened to grind her up in farming equipment, leaving no trace of her whatsoever.
Here's the lesson: he did not begin the relationship that way. From the beginning he gave abusive clues, speaking negatively of her friends and family, planting seeds to disconnect. Little by little he closed off her social involvements until she was totally isolated and terrified of resisting or running. Never ignore abusive clues. Anything accommodated grows.
Relationships are living organisms, they must breathe in and breathe out fresh air to be healthy and growing. Good social involvement with others keeps fresh winds blowing in and blowing out. Proverbs 27:10: Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you-better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Hebrews 10:25: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...
#21...THE LAW OF DISTANCE & TERMINATION
Relationships are subject to distance or termination when the immediate or longterm safety and wellbeing of a person is at risk.
The Creator intended relationships to be life-giving, not death-causing. When the immediate or longterm safety and wellbeing of a person is at risk, relational distance or termination becomes a legitimate consideration.
Some have a faulty understanding of unconditional love, forgiveness, and patience. They think God would applaud their relational martyrdom if they let themselves be beaten to a pulp day after day, physically or verbally or whatever way. Essentially, they are licensing a destructive person to destroy them little by little, if not all at once. This is not admirable or biblical; this is fear of being alone, codependence, and struggling self-worth. Even Jesus would not tolerate certain treatment (Jn 2:23-25, Lk 4:28-30).
Harmful vs Hard We need to contrast harmful relationships with simply hard ones. A harmful relationship is one that will cause immediate or eventual damage to our wellbeing. The enemy is often, if not always, directly manifested in such relationships. Psalm 101 and Proverbs 13:20 address such.
Hard relationships are just that--hard--but not ultimately harmful. They carry the fingerprints of the Sanctifier, who organizes such uphill relationships to develop our spirituality and personality. At times we'd like to swear such relationships are "harmful", giving us excuse to cut n run, but deep down we know the Spirit is using that person like sandpaper to smooth our rough edges. We instinctively know that in the end it will produce new, life-giving relational patterns in us. Paul had a hard time with John Mark (Ac 15:37-40), but they both grew and eventually got it right (2Ti 4:11).