Decisions, Decisions…

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.

Quick Konversations: Surprise!

Lately my internal konversations have been around overcoming the mental trauma from disappoints and bad experiences. I’ve learned those things continue to affect you if you don’t address them. Many of my friends know I have hated surprises for the majority of my adulthood. Not feeling understood and known has made it difficult for me to have a positive outlook on the possibility of them. There’s a lot of pressure to be grateful, regardless of how much the surprise speaks to who you are and what you love and enjoy.

The last time a surprise was planned for me, I spazzed out because it didn’t go as I would have liked. I remember making specific requests about my birthday and I felt they were ignored. After that fiasco, I’m sure my friends didn’t want to find themselves in that predicament ever again. Although I was very forthcoming about my disdain for surprises after that experience, I secretly coveted other friendships where surprise parties and activities were planned for someone. I would conjure up thoughts about not having “real” friends, because I didn’t have the experiences I wanted. I later realized that my unrealistic expectations, entitled attitude and isolation separated me from what I desired. It took me about six years, to identify my error so that I could be positioned to receive what I truly desired.

This year, because my best friend gets me, she gave me the option of being surprised or knowing what she was planning for me. I told her to keep it a surprise. I believe it was the Holy Spirit that whispered to me to allow those who love me the chance to express that love, their way. In my experience, some of my greatest disappointments were linked to passing up one opportunity for another, which ended up being a bust. Low key, I didn’t have a real plan to celebrate my birthday because I feared disappointment. Naturally, I could have planned an independent activity, but in reality I didn’t want to spend it alone. So instead of rejecting the unknown from a promising source, I obliged. There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”, which attempts to protect us from disappointment. It’s not a bad thing to put all your eggs in one basket in every situation. To that I would say, it pays to assess the capability of the basket you’re putting your eggs in. If one basket has failed you in the past, you have a decision to make keeping in mind the risks involved in using that basket again. My point is that I’ve learned that the eggs, my happiness, in this case, is precious cargo and my responsibility. I plan to discuss how to navigate track records in relationships, in an upcoming post. Long story short, the surprise was dinner, an amazing live jazz performance and an impromptu photo shoot. I’m happy I gave surprises another shot.

Almost a diary entry: My identity Isolated Me

Best all around.

It was my senior year of high school, and I thought I deserved that superlative because I knew some of everybody, even the outcasts. But of course, Superlatives is a popularity contest, so you don’t win it for knowing the people who aren’t popular. In the present, I still find myself befriending the people no one hangs around. It seems like there’s this magnet inside of me that draws the outcasts to me. These friendships, by the way, have become some of the most rewarding friendships of my life. We’ve endured through each other’s hard times and celebrated each other during our accomplishments. But there was a time when I couldn’t see the good in all of that. There was a time when I thought I deserved a certain type of friend. I remember feeling slighted because I thought I was “good enough” to have “cool” friends. This was before I began to reap the benefits of those relationships. At that time, I was still sowing and all I knew was that I wanted something easier. It took me some time to realize that what was happening with me and through me had little to do with my personality, but it had everything to do with my identity and purpose.

Jesus was known to hang out with the untouchables of his day and the Pharisees called him on it, quite frequently.

In Matthew 9:10-17, Jesus was having dinner with some tax collectors [the equivalent of our present day bill collectors, whose calls we ignore and block] and sinners. The Pharisees asked the disciples why Jesus was eating with the sinners and tax collectors. And before the disciples could say anything, Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I desire compassion and not sacrifice. I’ve come for the sinners, not the righteous.”

This passage gave insight to my experience with friendships. I realized that, popular people don’t typically need more friends. And “well-tribed” people don’t need more people to join their tribe, because they’re already surrounded. Who then needs the tribe? The loners and the outcasts. I know, “There’s a reason no one talks to them.” and “They seem weird.” so you wonder what you two would have in common. These are the thoughts we usually have about befriending outcasts or more generally, someone who isn’t “our type”. We often cling to people and things we can relate to, but on the flip side we find ourselves with a narrow worldview, unable to accept lifestyles or choices that don’t mirror our own. But one thing I’ve learned from experience is that befriending someone different than you gives you the opportunity to grow in patience, love and acceptance.

As humans trying to be Christians, we have the tendency to mark off things for our own pleasure and enjoyment, instead of seeing every part of our life as God’s property. For me, I didn’t want friendships to be my form of “ministry” or something that would require more pruning and growth. “At least let me choose my friends, God!” It seemed I didn’t have control of much of anything. God wants that part of my life as well, for His glory. Instead of holding on to who I wanted to be, I had to surrender to the design God fashioned in me. God gave me the ability to see the diamonds in the rough; the precious jewels that had yet to be discovered. These are my type of friends.

The only reason, I felt isolated was because I stepped into the world of a person who had been isolated. As my life aligned with theirs, I felt what it was like to not be invited, checked on or understood. But I was only isolated as long as I felt like I belonged elsewhere. You can either take what’s handed to you or you can work to create what you want. It’s like the difference between starting a business and becoming an owner of an already successful chain restaurant. If you join something that’s already successful, you have a ready made reputation and guaranteed clientele. But when you start a business, you have to identify your market, build your clientele, and you gain a reputation by the opinion of those who experience your product.

I said that to say that there’s nothing wrong with building friendships from the ground up. It’s not always easy but it’s definitely worth it. One thing I know for sure, is that we all have that something, that makes us different and separates us from the majority. Don’t be afraid to lean into that; It’s who you are. And you have the ability to surround yourself with others who understand and appreciate what you have to offer, by just being YOU!

I’d love you to share your journey of identity. Let’s have a Konversation.

Loving the outcasts for the Kingdom…

Advice for giving….advice.

People mean well.

They really do!

But, I’ve learned that people have to live their own lives and choose their own paths. As much as we don’t like to see the people we love suffer, contrary to popular practice or belief, there isn’t much we can say or do to ensure they don’t make the wrong decisions. We can only be there for them on the other side.

It all started in the garden. 

Since the tempting of the serpent in the garden of Eden, we as humans have a hard time “Taking your word for it.” We now have to see for ourselves. Which is why just telling someone not to do something seldom stops them from doing it, children and adults alike. Then, we tell our anecdotal stories about how a similar situation didn’t work out for us, hoping that those stories will be the proof they need to decide against it, and it still doesn’t work.

One person’s experience doesn’t equate to someone else’s understanding. 

For whatever reason, the person you’re trying to warn, often thinks their situation is just different enough from yours, or someone else’s, that they’ll have a different outcome. Who knows if that’s actually the case, but the more important point here is that everyone is different, including the comparable participants of each of our lives and situations.

We all have separate lives to live and be accountable for, and we can only love people regardless of their choices.

I remember once trying to talk a girl out of dealing with a guy that had done me wrong. Obviously,  I was scared, but I thought I was doing my duty to warn her. Long story short, she didn’t listen to me and now they’re married. (How’s that for a lesson in advice? Ha!)

I don’t know the details of their relationship, and that’s just the point. We seldom know all the details required to make a judgment. Who knows what made her different than me? Who knows what made him settle down? As similar as it seemed in the beginning, her experience wasn’t the same as mine.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to offer advice and guidance, just keep in mind there are many factors involved.

So, if you’re the type that likes to save the world through advice, here are some things that maybe you should consider. (The irony is that this is advice that you may or may not choose to accept. I understand that, and I’m okay with it.)

  1. Make sure the person you’re talking to actually wants advice.
    1. Sometimes, we just want a listening ear, not for someone to make a judgment about what we’re thinking, feeling or doing. Before your personal experience bubbles up into a “DON’T DO IT!”, ask them if they’re open to advice at that time.
  2. If you feel like someone has made a bad judgment, be careful how you express that.
    1. People do what they think is best in the moment, and at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to deal with the consequences of their decisions and actions.  Judgment is not our job, especially because we don’t always know the inward motivations of actions.
  3. Try not to look down on people who decide to take their own path.
    1. It’s very likely that someone may make the mistake you warned them of. They may go through with it, even after agreeing that the decision wasn’t in their best interest. Don’t shun them for walking out their path. The same experience you gained after your mistake or learned lesson can happen for them as well.

We can only hope and pray that people gain the lesson in their choices. And if they find it was a mistake, we can only hope they don’t become bound by regret.

Change should be facilitated.

I hope this helps the advice giver and receiver, which ever side you may find yourself on.

Thoughtfully,

Kiana

Why I Think Certain Marriage Advice is Pointless.

People are so obsessed with preparation. In the Christian community it’s all about ‘the process’. I just think at some point there’s only so much you can learn about something you have yet to experience. All these marriage trainings and conferences, things are getting out of hand. This is more so in relation to singles who run to every marriage prep event they can find. Honestly, how much can you learn about your future marriage from a married couple? I just believe there is a fine line between wisdom and unnecessary information. In reality, listening to a couple share their story just makes you an expert on THEIR relationship. If you are not in a relationship when you attend these workshops, how do you expect to apply some of these techniques if you don’t even know your spouse yet? Some things you just have to learn when they happen. I am not bashing couples who do ministry based on their love story because some of them truly do teach on the ultimate life process which is becoming more like Jesus. But when it comes to relationships and marriage, you just don’t know what you’re going to face until you’re looking them square in the face. Once you’re courting, engaged or married, I absolutely support gleaning from a married couple because at that point you actually have a relationship to apply the information to and you can receive specialized advice for your relationship specifically.

My concern is that many will go to every workshop and conference and have all these notes and get in their marriage and still be lost. You’ll think you have mastered how to be married and how to be a proper wife, when in reality you haven’t mastered how to be a selfless person in any other relationship, which is the key to marriage. Marriage is not about techniques, it’s about love and patience. It’s about caring for a person and doing what you can to authentically support them while they also become a better person. It’s about sticking it out, being honest, learning to forgive faster, being supportive.

The major issue here is that we have adopted this mindset that we need to prepare to ‘wear another hat’ so to speak. So when we want to be married we try to get all this advice that we think will help us find a spouse and stay married. Or if we want children, we read all these books and listen to all these parenting stories thinking that it will help us have a problem free child rearing experience. As simple as it sounds, just live. Engage in every moment you find yourself in because those are the moments that shape you into a better, more selfless you.

At one point in my life, I didn’t believe that platonic same gender friendships could be preparation for marriage. But in one particular friendship, I learned that through all the friends I’ve ever had, I had never let anyone this close before. I had never let anyone know me so intimately and I realized then, I needed some work. There comes a point where you evaluate all your interactions and altercations and recognize parts that need to grow in you. I wanted to think that friendship with a girl was different than a relationship with a guy, and it may have been in the shallow relationships I had been in in the past, but now that I know more about marriage and long term friendships, I can say that this friendship has truly changed my life and that is the change that prepares you for marriage. I’ve learned to accept people for who they are, not trying to change them, but really be the change I want to see in them, I’ve learned to take initiative and most of all learned to forgive and not hold grudges.

I repeat JUST LIVE. Engage in every aspect of your life, whether it be at your job, in your family, at church or a grocery store encounter. Let life interactions change you and you’ll be prepared for any major life event.

Love in Humility

Recently my pastor was teaching on love and some of its aspects. One of the aspects that stuck out to me was love in humility. This is the type of love that is not seen by all. It’s the behind the scenes action of which not many can testify. I had been learning and growing in this area without being able to categorize it. Now that I’ve experienced it, I must say, it takes quite a bit of self denial. But it is natural to desire recognition for doing selfless acts because they are rarely seen, in addition to feeling unappreciated by the person receiving. I am also reminded of 1 Corinthians 13 which says that love is not boastful. Until recently, I thought that verse only referred to boasting about material things or just making a big deal about your own personal accomplishments and such; but I realized love doesn’t boast about loving either. It does not point out how much and how often you pray for the one you love or how you’ve fasted for their breakthrough, or how you’ve neglected to pray for yourself because you’ve been “so busy” caring (worrying) about them. The truth I’ve found is that God always takes care of you when you are about His business. If He puts it on your heart to cover someone in prayer and to really commit to it and bear their burden for that moment, know that your needs will be met in return for your obedience. Might I also add as a side note that if you begin to complain about your “assignment” to pray for someone, you may need to check your own intentions. You may not be praying from a place of love but rather judgment, frustration, or obligation, because love is always willing to believe and bear all things. So no matter how long it takes for that person to come out or be delivered, the love you have helps you to continue to persevere on their behalf, no matter the obstacles.

The truth is that love is humble. If we consider that God is love and look at the way He loves us in the scriptures and even in our lives, there’s no amount of selfishness in it. Everything He does is for us. He’s so awesome that He can get glory out of what He does but we benefit from everything, even His commandments. You may feel confined trying to obey God’s commandments, but everything is for your good. God isn’t power hungry or manipulative. He already has all power so He doesn’t have to fight for that. He’s sovereign, so things go the way He pleases every time. He’s holy, but we have sinful nature and that’s the friction we experience. It is the reason we oppose the idea of denying ourselves of things that please us but not God. But through relationship with Him, we find His image in us, which makes it easier for us to be more like Him.

Love and care for others without needing applause. Do things for others without expecting to be reciprocated. Jesus loved us before we even were born and no matter what we do, He has plans to continue to love us. Instead He intercedes to the Father on our behalf that He might have mercy on us and draw us in. His perfect love is difficult to fathom at times because there’s nothing like it but it is real nonetheless. Therefore if He lives within us, we are capable of allowing His love to move through us and touch someone else.

Trophy Wife versus The Rib

The other day I was reflecting on one of my past relationships and how I felt being with that guy. Although he was a great guy and I know he cared about me, there was this one thing that I didn’t like. He really focused on my physical appearance and it was clear that he wanted to show me off. Because we were intimate, he was very well aware of my shape and he would often tell me to wear clothes that really accentuated it. He would say things like “There are girls out there who would kill for your body, you should show it off.” That didn’t mean anything to me. I mean it was great to have a nice body and no one wants to be fat, but to me, it wasn’t an opportunity to show the world how God made me. I am conservative by nature. I don’t show much skin or wear very tight clothes because I’ve been shapely from a young age and have despised the physical attention I attracted unintentionally. To him, I was something to show off to the eyes of the world but to me, I was (and am) much more. Now that I am in a deeper place spiritually, and have found even more value within myself, I refuse to simply be something to look at and lust over. From my young age I have battled with accepting who I am because the world tells you you’ve made it if your physically attractive but what they don’t tell you about is the huge void that comes with that territory; The emptiness that comes with shallow connections and being misunderstood. Many people stop at the outside and take you for what they see and insult your intelligence because of their stereotype of a beautiful girl. But I have depth and I enjoy thought provoking conversations but unfortunately, it took a while for ME to even realize that about myself because I allowed people to stop at what they saw on the outside.

There is a term that is used to describe a wife who seems to only have physical worth; she is the Trophy Wife. This woman is always on point, dressed to the tee, hair and nails always done, never seen without a full face of make up and she is in shape. She makes her husband look good when she’s on his arm. She’s the topic of discussion in her husband’s friend circle as the men covet her and fish for intimate details of their relationship. Sadly though, many of those types of wives only contribute to how their husbands LOOKS. She doesn’t speak to his character, she doesn’t help him grow or push him to his untapped potential. Although this type of woman is the jackpot in some man’s fantasy, this is never what God intended for the wife.

Genesis 2:21-22 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

Eve was created from Adam’s rib. A rib is an internal bone structure that protects the fragile organs within the abdominal area. I believe there is a definitely a reason why God chose Adam’s rib from which to make Eve to metaphorically describe the function of a wife.

If you look at a reasonably healthy person, their ribs are not usually bursting through their skin or shirt. Although the ribs are there and serving their purpose they are not always visible. I believe that a wife should be like that in some aspect. Yes, a husband should be proud to have her and cherish her, but highlighting only her physical appearance is not the only way to “show her off”. Usually the only time you see someone’s ribs is when they are frail and mostly likely that is because of some sickness. In that same way, a wife should be most visible when her husband needs her the most. Those are the times he should be bragging on how much of a support system she has been for him. Those are the attributes that should be emphasized in a conversation about a man’s wife, the value she adds to him and not how they look together as a couple.

Although it is a man’s natural instinct to protect a woman, wives protect their husband in a different way. Men do the physical protecting while wives take care of the mental and spiritual protection. Women protect men from illogical moves and bad decisions. Men are the leaders, which gives them control but they are also risk takers and will do things that may not pan out well because they don’t always think that far ahead. Men are definitely intelligent but sometimes women have to talk some sense into them and no one has that access after a mother except a wife. A wife has access to the intimate places; she sees him in his most vulnerable moments and knows how to minister to him in a way to build him back up. A husband should be able to trust that a wife won’t advise him in the wrong direction, take advantage of him or forget that he’s not superman and help him even when he forgets himself.

Women: by all means, keep yourself up and look your best. You don’t have to be at home in “comfortable clothes” all days cleaning and praying (unless that’s what you get into). Just remember when you get home, the things that really count take place. Know who you are to your husband, you’re more than sex, dinner and a clean house. He needs you; you get him, you believe in him and you support him.