Monday, February 16, 2009

Relationships, pt.3

Part 2 is here

Insecurity can also be destructive to relationships. As I see it there are two ways that this effects how we relate to others; An inward manifestation and an outward one. Our own self-doubt and feelings of insecurity cause us to put up walls when people start to get to close. We become afraid of exposure, that others will see our faults and imperfections, that they might see us as we truly are and not as we would like them to see us. It may be a fear that once they see us for who we really are, they won't like what they see, or we won't be good enough anymore. We also fear rejection from others. Both of these fears tend to cause us to keep people at a distance, keep them from getting too close. This is a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt. It also keeps relationships from becoming truly deep and meaningful, they remain shallow and easily discarded. Other people may sense this, may even run right into your wall, but it is a passive defense.

The outward, aggressive manifestation of some of these same feelings is jealousy. This is one of my failings and as such, I don't feel comfortable writing too much about it. A small amount shows how much you care, any more than that reveals a lack of trust, even when it's all about your own fears it still looks like you are impuning your partners integrity, motives, sincerity...

If you are not building deep relationships how do you expect to reach others?

Trust and love combat this destroyer, and build relationships. Without trust no relationships can exist, and that begins with trust in God, Psa 31:14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." You have to be willing to trust God with your life, trust that he is in control, and trust that he will guide you through any difficulties. Without this trust any attempts to form relationships with others are going to be less than satisfactory. Trusting God should be pretty easy, right? Not always, I know. The next is trusting each other, and that is far more difficult. Trust can take years to build up between two people, to some extent is has to be earned, but it can also be given. Soldiers and some law enforcement build trust between each other in hours or days in some situations. How do they do it? Lots of opportunities for each to rely on another and to stand up to the challenge for another. You can emulate this to some extent in your own life by looking for and making the most of opportunities that arise. Even if you tend to be a bit cynical like me, try giving someone the opportunity to fail. Show them you trust them (even if you don't), give them the freedom and see what they do. If they fail, you are no worse off than if you never tried to trust them. On the other hand, if they do succeed, you will have gained trust in them. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Trust has many levels and much intricacy, too many fine shades to be fully explained here. But, at some point you will have enough trust in someone that you should be able to love them. Love, a four letter word, simple and direct, yet a single word cannot come close to describing all of the variations of the concept. One is forced to use other languages to say what one really means. Agape, Eros, Phila, Storge... Greek works well for this. Whether it's love of friends, family, christian brothers(sisters), or romantic love it has the same effect on insecurity. You cannot love someone and keep them out of your life, you can't withhold yourself from them. It's a mutual interaction that requires both parties. It takes work and must be looked at regularly, and even talked about sometimes. A few words can dispel months of misunderstanding.

Building relationships like this is what we are meant to do, called to do actually. Once they are built they have to be maintained from time to time as well.

Part 4(final) is here

Monday, February 9, 2009


Taking a short break from my series due to life happening.

I have been feeling that I needed to be a bit more forward in making my faith known. But, at the same time I am very reluctant to do so. One reason is that I have had many people push their faith on me in the past and I didn't respond well to it, generally pushed me further way. Beyond that, inviting people to come to church was something I didn't think I'd ever do, not really anyways. I've never had a problem talking about religion with others, but that has always been more of an academic discussion in the past, not a real discussion of faith with clear cut right and wrong answers. Beyond that, I couldn't really see myself inviting others to church either. I mean, I can invite another christian to try my church if they are not happy with theirs, but it's a whole different thing to try to get a non-church goer to attend. I was really unsure if I'd be able to start this kind of discussion or how I would. I was a bit scared that I might not see an opportunity or if I did that I might not take it.

Well, last night an opportunity smacked me over the head. There was no missing it. A little small talk, then he asks, "you're a Christian, right?" He had asked me that before and it had led to a random discussion with no direction or conclusion. But, last night he had some serious questions and was looking for solid answers. He believes in God, but is not a "serious" Christian. He had been influenced to start questioning some of the basic doctrine of Christianity, specifically the devine nature of Jesus. He seemed to be losing his grip on his faith, heading down the path of relativism. I did not hesitate to jump right in and answer him directly and without equivocation. He responded well and made a vague comment about maybe wanting to go to church. I ran with that too, and invited him. I didn't just leave it at that either, he gave me a somewhat positive answer, I told him I would follow up with him, and I plan on it.

For all my worrying about what I would do, if I could do it, how I would go about it... I got my answer. I wasn't nervous, saw the need clear as day, and stood up at the first opportunity. It wasn't until leaving that I realized what had happened. I felt good about it, but not proud. I was a bit surprised, but not shocked. I see it as a sign of my growth as a Christian.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Relationships, pt.2

You can find part 1 here

2. Pride as a destroyer of relationships. I never really thought of pride as an issue in my relationships, but, that's probably because I haven't spent much time thinking about what pride is and does. Pride can lead people to be critical of others, always finding fault in what they do or how they do it, while at the same time the person is unwilling to admit their own faults and short comings. It can also be a cause of superficial relationships. In order to protect your own view of yourself you keep others from getting to close and getting to know you. This way you can keep your faults hidden. Some people express their pride by always having to "oneup" everyone. They always did it better or faster, always have a story to top yours. The other thing that pride can lead to is the unwillingness to admit weakness. Admitting one's weakness is a tough one, our culture frowns upon men(particularly) admitting to any real weakness, so, whether it's pride or not is up to you and your conscience.

When it's laid out like this it becomes very clear to me how this can not only destroy relationships, but, cause them to never really get started in the first place. Beyond that, Prov 3:7 says, "Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil." I never really realized how destructive pride could be or why it was a sin so often mentioned in the Bible. Now I see how much it can effect one's relationships, and that directly impacts our mandate to love one another. So...

The opposite of pride is humility. I have to say that pride has always seemed to me to be an Old Testament theme, and Humility a New Testament one. A quick search shows that, at least these exact words, are both used about the same as each other and both are used more times in the Old than the New Testament (ESV). So much for my intuition. Well, maybe I have that gut feeling because, while the word may not be used as much in the scriptures, Christ was a constant example of humility. He didn't preach it, he did it. At least to me, his actions speak louder than any words. There is no good reason to push others away, no sense in trying to hide our weaknesses (Mat 26:41) "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." I can see how it could be a bit scary to let people in close to you. But, I've always found that the majority of them will be good to you if you give them a chance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Not that I am by any means an expert on relationships, plenty of people can vouch for that, but my pastor presented a sermon last week that I thought was really good. I thought I would take my notes and add my own thoughts to it, I'm even going to follow his AB AB presentation. I don't really think that Biblical analysis of all situations is always the best way. Sometimes these lead to tortured readings of the Bible and lots of gap filling. I also don't subscribe to the notion that the bible has the answer to everything (If you do, take your Bible out to your garage and use it as your only manual for rebuilding your transmission). However, relationships is certainly something that is addressed at length in the Bible and a very important part of not only being a good person, but also being a good Christian. Yep, being a good Christian... John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Love is a whole extra post, I'm sure... here's a cheat)

There seems to be a natural tendency in most relationships. They start out casual, then you get closer pretty quickly, then over time you drift apart. I'm sure most people have friends they have known almost their whole life, but they are usually few in number when compared to the number of friends who just drifted away over time. This tends to happen with groups or organizations as well as with individual people. I'm mostly thinking and writing about interpersonal relationships, but, the same key issues effect other relationships.

1. Selfishness is a part of human nature, we are all basically selfish, but it is something that will destroy a relationship. James 3:16, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. " Most of us start out relationships being very giving, always concerned about the other person, willing to go the extra mile to do things for them. But, over time, we back away from this and slowly start to turn back inward to taking care of ourselves first. It's easy to do, just stop doing something because they can do it themselves, or not taking that extra minute to do something for someone else because you are too busy. Eventually you are too busy to do anything for the other person. They will normally do the same to you, you will resent it (see #4), and grow even further apart. The tit for tat retaliation is relationships is horribly destructive, and we all do it, always have ("well, he hit me first."), being aware of it can help limit it.

So what's the answer? Being selfless. Doing for the other person because you can without expecting anything in return. (Did I mention that these are not my ideas and that I'm as lacking in these areas as everyone else?) Jesus showed us this famously by washing his disciples feet before the Last Supper. He didn't make a show of it, didn't ask for anything in return, he did it as an example for them to follow. He led by example. That's what we are supposed to do, follow his example in our everyday life, and by doing so be an example for others. If you are going to do this you have to stop keeping track, you can't keep an accounting, it won't work if you do. Very hard to practice. However, it is also something that can keep a relationship close, well worth the effort.

This is going to get a little longer than I thought. I'll end here for now, Part 1 of 4.