Toxic relationships is a hot topic for this generation. From what I gather, people are tired of giving passes to the people that have damaged them mentally and emotionally. Relationships are ending left and right because of the trauma and pain individuals have have endured in them. It seems very logical to cut someone off who has quite possibly stunted your growth. I mean, who wants to be around the person who has contributed to their emotional instability?
While I understand the rationale, my heart bends toward conflict resolution and reconciliation. I cringe when I hear about someone cutting off a family member or long time friend. It’s not from a place of judgement, but sadness, that they couldn’t figure out how to make things work. I understand that we do the best we can and we do what’s best for us, most of the time. I understand that relationships won’t always be perfect. But my hope is that there’s someone involved who is resilient enough to withstand the trials of the relationship so that it has a fair chance at succeeding. However, going separate ways may be the best thing in certain situations. Who knows? Each situation is different.
This is a conversation about challenging relationships and how we can have them and our sanity, too.
First of all….
What is our obligation to people who have destructive behaviors?
Part of me feels that we determine our obligation to someone based on what the relationship means to us. Some people feel more obligated to family than they do friends, while others have no problem with being estranged from family, but couldn’t imagine walking away from a close friend. We’re probably more driven to make a decision about a strained relationship with someone our lives are tied to. We’re less likely to feel strongly about a co worker or someone we see once or twice a week at church.
What the Bible says about it
The other part of me believes we should feel compelled to make peace with all men, regardless of how we have come to know them.There are many scriptures that teach believers how to interact with the people who mistreat us, but ultimately we have to make a decision on our own about how we proceed in relationship.
As a believer, there’s this unspoken expectation to be a peace maker and to have patience with people, based on our understanding of the concept of love (See 1 Corinthian 13:4-7). It seems that we interpret the concept of “turning the other cheek” as a commandment give people the opportunity to hurt us over and over, without a fight. And because we aren’t often shown an alternative, more practical reaction to being mistreated repeatedly, we seem to choose the polar opposite response to it, which is some form of ending all communication and contact. The unfortunate reality of that is, both options end up being damaging to at least one, if not all parties involved. There has to be a middle ground though, right?
The thing about love
Love tends to be abstract in expression. At times, we claim “love” is the reason we remain in a situation that is harming us and not bettering the person we’re trying to love. I’ve recently learned that loving someone who hurts you isn’t wrong per se, but its the lack of self-love that gets us in trouble. Self-love allows us to set boundaries that protect both people involved. It also gives us a little bit more room to extend love to the other person in the challenging relationship. Self-love is not easy, especially if it wasn’t emphasized early on in life.
More on self love
A personal belief of mine is that we are the second person responsible for loving ourselves, God being first. I stated that in a previous blog and I said I’d talk about it later. (Here goes.) When it comes to authority figures, parents, family, church leaders, etc, they are responsible for guiding us and caring for us, but to a certain extent. Many of us remain in a broken state because we never pick up the responsibility to care for and protect ourselves, while harboring bitterness and resentment. As a child, pouting never got me what I wanted. And as an adult, grudges don’t either. Please don’t get stuck there. You have the power to establish who you are, what you will accept and what you will reject. You don’t have to believe the negative things that were said to you and about you. You don’t have to remain broken from emotional or mental trauma. It may take work, but it’s possible to rise from those ashes.
Sometimes, we have to step away from those difficult relationships for a moment so that we can settle ourselves in truth and love. A fragile object in a hazardous environment, more than likely will lead to more brokenness than healing. So, if you do intend to remove yourself, I encourage you to do so with the intention of healing and with reconciliation in mind, even if it seems afar off.
I spent years frustrated about relationships that were strained because of decisions I was subjected to as a child. It wasn’t until I took it upon myself to be available and show interest in the bond, that things started to come together. All it took was for me to come out of my pity party and make an effort. Pride told me not to go out of my way, but love said otherwise. Love helped me to identify that the relationship was important to me and worth the work.
Take time to find out where you are. If you can’t handle the relationship because you’re still hurting or fearful of possible pain, do your best to communicate that and help yourself. Perhaps you’ll come back with the strength to love that person in spite of what was. Don’t forget that everyone is on a journey, and 9 times out of 10, at any given moment, they’re doing the best they can.