When I was sitting in the therapist’s chair, much of what I heard was related to challenges relationally in one form or another. Without question our relationships are often where we experience the greatest wounds, but also places where the Lord shows us things about ourselves as well as others meant for our growth and healing.
Relationships can be pesky things as well as sources of great joy and solace or as Dickens would say “the best of times and the worst of times”.
When it is the latter, we tend to either give up, shut down, or move on or we look for someone or something to blame. Sometimes the blame goes to the other person and sometimes to us.
One thing I know for certain is that blame doesn’t help any of us and gives room for the enemy to create or maintain a stronghold in our lives.
We stop trusting others or ourselves. Either of these is understandable, but also point to trust issues with the Lord as well.
There is no question that some relationships might be toxic for us. If you are unsure about whether that is true, an excellent resource is Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. He gives excellent examples and steps to help you discern whether you are dealing with an imperfect human like you are, a foolish person, or an evil person. He also guides you through the best choices of how to respond to each type of person.
Reading this book was very enlightening to me and gave me a better handle on how to help others as well as how to be wiser myself.
The risk we face too often is to close off our heart. Closing off our heart not only risks relationships with others, but our relationship with the Lord also suffers.
John Eldredge addressed this through his book, Waking the Dead, and one quote from his book regarding this issue follows:
“If you dismiss your heart, you will end up dismissing theirs. If you expect perfection of your heart, you will raise that same standard for them. If you manage your heart for efficiency and performance that is what you’ll pressure them to be.”
But, Pam, you say… What about Proverbs 4:23?
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” ESV
Maybe we need to prayerfully consider what the writer of Proverbs is saying. When you do, I don’t think you will hear that we are to close off our hearts.
We are instead to be watchful, focused, and intentional to avoid slipping from His path into areas of temptation and sin. That fits as well with what John Eldredge says.
If we fall prey to closing off our hearts, we will be more likely to be tempted to dismiss the heart of the other person.
If my heart exacts a desire for perfection in me, I will have a similar standard for the other person and sometimes even justify it since I first expected it of me.
The keys to relational growth are:
- Ask the Lord to show you your own heart and what He sees there. He loves you most and always wants what is best for you.
- Ask the Lord to show you the heart of the other person. Don’t trust that you know for certain where it is or that you heard accurately what the other person was saying.
- Ask the Lord to heal any broken places in your own heart or theirs from relationships prior to this one that need His healing touch.
- Trust the Lord. Your humility before Him as you seek Him first will lead to a vigilant heart that is open to Him as well as others.