Relationships are messy. That’s because broken people comprise them. Yes, those of us who have trusted Christ have been proclaimed righteous. But we are not yet what we will, by God’s grace, fully become. In the meantime, we live in a world broken by sin and ruled by a cruel prince of darkness who desires to destroy us. Our relationships are some of our most vulnerable places. They are places where the enemy of our soul likes to wound us.
I spend most of my waking hours working with women who have been horribly wounded. These women have also inflicted deep and painful wounds on others, often their children. They are not trying to harm their kids. They’re trying to dull the pain their past relationships caused them. But now Satan tortures them with regret, guilt, shame, and the fallout of broken relationships. It’s a vicious cycle. I am wounded by others, so I unintentionally wound those around me.
Most of the women I see eventually conclude that the only way out of the cycle is to pull away from relationships. They isolate in an attempt to protect themselves from others and protect others from themselves. It’s understandable how they arrived at that conclusion. The problem is, it just doesn’t work. We were made to be creatures of connection. We can’t thrive alone because we were never meant to. “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). It is not good that we should be alone. It is not good for us to be alone.
So what can we do? It seems that we’re in trouble either way. If we have relationships, we are bound to get hurt and to hurt others. But it is not good that we should be alone. Here are a few uphill habit choices I would offer for relating with others.
- Choose to courageously engage with others, even knowing that sometimes there will be pain. Do this because it is not good to be alone. Do this because others can help us recognize our wounds and can help us heal from them. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
- Choose to share the vulnerable things about yourself with people who have demonstrated over time that they are trustworthy to hold them well. “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright” (Proverbs 20:11).
- Choose to forgive others when they hurt you because you are not strong enough to thrive while carrying the weight of bitterness and resentment. It’s OK to be angry when someone has hurt you. Anger is a natural response to feeling let down, betrayed, rejected, or abandoned. But anger festers without forgiveness, and that wound can get very infected. The infection can spread into other areas of your life. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26—27).
- Choose to ask forgiveness from others when you have hurt them. Do this because conflict that has been left unhealed also festers. It sucks away our ability to worship God fully. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23—24).
- Choose to ask forgiveness from God for hurting others. Sometimes we forget that an offense against someone else is also an offense against God because He made each of us and loves each of us fiercely. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:3—4).
- Forgive yourself when you have hurt someone else. Somehow we feel justified in punishing ourselves over and over in our own minds. We echo the accusing words that Satan hurls at us because we agree with our enemy that we are especially bad and unforgivable for what we did that hurt others. But the truth is that berating ourselves doesn’t make us better in relationships. It only encourages us to isolate. It guarantees brokenness where God can bring redemption and restoration. So choose compassion for yourself. Stop trying to berate yourself to make up for something God in Christ has already forgiven you for. “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:15—18).
I hope and pray that the Scripture God provided today gives you the courage to choose uphill habits in your relationships. Rest in the truth that God is with you as you climb, and His strength will never fail.