Can we really know ourselves without knowing God? God has created every one of us to be unique individuals, each with our own talents and gifts. If we do not know who we really are, how deeply can we connect with others?
Recently, I suspended a friendship. This person is a very good friend of mine, but over the years, we have had a few different “spats”. We have always talked through them and then reconciled, but would then eventually fall back into old habits and so the friendship has become the hamster on the wheel, going round and round.
We have repeated the same conversations and made the same requests of each other. We have attempted to meet each others’ needs, but it continued to be an unstable relationship. Why? Because of trust. Without trust, I have no belief that making another attempt will result in a different outcome. I cannot speak for her, but for myself, trust has been lost. As I have mentioned before, trust is one of the most important ingredients in any relationship. When trust goes, there is going to be a break in the relationship. Rebuilding trust takes more than conversations, negotiations and agreements, it takes a significant amount of follow through over time. There are no quick fixes when it comes to building or rebuilding trust. The person whose actions have breached trust will have to demonstrate that they are who they say they are, and that they will do what they say they will do, consistently, time and time again until the other person feels confident that the follow through is there. That is why it takes such a long time to rebuild. The one who lacks trust in the relationship is the only one who can determine when they feel confident in the other person and sometimes, the confidence never comes back.
Again, I cannot speak to what my friend feels and I don’t want to worry about her feelings right now because I trust her to deal with her feelings while I deal with my feelings. If I worry more about her feelings than my own feelings, it can lead to getting back on the wheel, being that hamster, putting in a lot of time and energy, to end up nowhere. From my perspective, the lack of follow through on her part has been what made the friendship something I don’t want to invest much energy into at this time. Sure, in “spats” past, there were promises that she understood my need for her to follow through and promises that she would start being more cognizant of my feelings. Trust was extended, again and again in the hamster on the wheel kind of relationship journey, but each time there was the opportunity for follow through, it did not happen and so after a pretty major sign that the person had not been truly listening or wanting to consider my needs, I suspended the friendship. I do know that will make it difficult to build trust. However, opening myself up to hurt, failed promises and disappointment, over and over again is just not something I want to do. I am not good at doing the hamster on the wheel. Quite frankly, it exhausts me to try. This is now a time to retreat and rest. That is what I am doing. The relationship was out of balance and it was too exhausting to be on the lower end of the see saw she and I were on. I know enough about relationships to take a time out and get off the wheel, at least for a while if not forever.
Because this is a pretty deep topic, I will do more on this in an upcoming video, but the point I want to make in this post is that relationships struggle when one or both people don’t know themselves. When people go on a healing journey and don’t take time to know themselves, they are creating the following relationship toxins:
#1 Emotional Dishonesty
Those who betray trust are typically not really aware of who they are. They don’t know their own wants and needs. Until they are able to figure out themselves, they will never figure out how to be in relationship with you. It amounts to emotional dishonesty, in a sense, because they are interacting with you as the person they wish to be, not who they truly are and because of this, they try convincing you they are someone that they are not. They are interacting as they think you want them to, instead of interacting as the person they are. In this type of relationship, everyone is guessing and hoping about who one or both people are, instead of being able to trust in who the person really is, flaws and all. When we are aware of our own flaws, we take responsibility for them, and when we know another person’s flaws, we can discern whether or not to connect with a person like that and if we decide to accept them and live with their flaws, we can then learn how to adapt to the other person as they are and not try to fix them.
It is possible to adapt to the flaws in the humans we interact with, as long as we have a pretty good idea that they understand why they do the things they do. If they have an idea of what drives their behavior, we can rest assured that if we tell them their actions hurt us in some way, they will not want to hurt us and they will take responsibility for their flaws. Not only that, if the person knows themselves and has really gotten to know us as we really are, instead of playing a guessing game, they will understand when and how their actions have or will hurt us and know how to make amends. Hopefully, that will help them make changes in how they interact with us and vice versa. Awareness of self and others helps people become motivated to change. Emotional dishonesty is often not done on purpose, but feels very similar to the way it feels when someone lies to you. Both hurt, whether intentional or not.
#2 Relationship imbalance
Friendships go through ups and downs. In a perfect world, people have no struggles and find themselves in good places in life and are able to contribute equitably to the relationship, meaning, no one bears all of the burden of the relationship. They share the cost of paying for food, entertainment, activities, etc. or both people help each others with chores, yard work, etc. The friends take care of each other and don’t let it get out of balance. They may take turns when one or the other has a greater need, such as, maybe one is not working and the other is or one has a big project at their home they need help with, the other has things in good shape, etc., and of course the biggies, supporting each other in difficult times. If one person feels that they are doing all of the heavy lifting either emotionally, financially or some other way, that person will eventually become tired of it and shut down or leave.
#3 Emotional Wounds
When people are emotionally strong, it is possible to open lines of communication, conflict resolution and resilience. However, wounded people are not as resilient as healed people are. If someone is telling you that you are hurting them, there has to be a concerted effort to work on apologies and repair because if the wounds keep being inflicted, it will cause greater and greater division in the relationship. When someone tells you that your behavior left them wounded, or that they are upset with you, and they mean something to you, you will want to deal with that. Learn what it was that wounded them. What was your responsibility and what is their responsibility and work out a way for both people to heal from it. Relationship wounds usually are a combination of the feelings of both people.
#4 Empty Apologies
As in my situation with my friend, I let her know that I needed to feel supported, but I did not feel supported in our relationship. She would apologize, although it never seemed like she knew what she was apologizing for. She would also ask for my apology. However, I explained that I was not going to apologize for feeling unsupported because those were my legitimate feelings. We do not have to apologize for how we feel, but we do have to take responsibility for how we feel. I could see a pattern in our friendship that was not working well for either of us. I started wanting to be unkind. I started having feelings of resentment, too. That is not who I am or who I want to be and so I took responsibility for my feelings. I knew that I needed to suspend the friendship because it was not working for either of us. When friends or family members apologize, but continue the behavior and even step it up a notch, the apology is as empty as the promises that come after it. Only you can determine when enough is enough and that determination has to be your own. It cannot be based what the other person wants, but has to be based on what you need and if you believe that you can trust in the other person’s ability to follow through on building the kind of relationship that meets the needs of both people involved.
If you don’t think you can walk away from or suspend an unhealthy or imbalanced relationship, is it because you feel alone? You are not. God is with you and he will get you through. You can also trust in him to work in the heart of the other person, if they are willing to let God in.
I do not want this post to imply that I do not have to meet my friend halfway. I do. I believe that I tried, several times. I know that if we decide to rebuild our friendship, I will have changes I need to make as well, but for now, the time apart is feeding my soul and giving me more time with God and the friends who do know themselves and know me. I am spending time in relationship balance, which only reinforces my belief that the relationship I suspended was severely out of balance.
To really know and understand others, we have to first know and understand ourselves. To really know and understand ourselves is a journey that I’ve only seen happen to people through a relationship with Jesus Christ and if you choose to leave a relationship, whether it is meant to be temporary or permanent, remember, if that relationship is meant to be, the connection will be made when the time is right and both people are ready, willing and able to rebuild it.