Quote from Dwight L Moody

Is our culture creating the “walk-away kind”? Granted, relationships have always been tough—to form and to keep, and sometimes we do need to sever unhealthy ties, especially if a particular person routinely steals our joy, effectiveness, and peace. But with all of the “toxic people” graphics I’ve seen in my social media feed the past few years, I worry we’ve learned to label every unpleasant interaction with imperfect people as poisonous. That we’ve found ways to justify remaining planted within our comfort zones surrounded by those who tell us what we want to hear.    

The other day, a friend shared recent interactions with her adult daughter. The two had issues to work through, false perceptions to correct, and misunderstandings to clear up. Initially, both parties appeared interested in seeking resolution and health, until my friend began setting boundaries and speaking truth regarding past issues. Having read the texts, I knew she’d chosen her words carefully and presented them with gentleness and love. In essence, she was inviting her daughter into something beautiful and whole. But to reach that place, they both needed the courage to be honest with themselves and with one another. 

The latter comes much easier, doesn’t it? Admitting we’re broken and a bit of a mess, however, tends to prick some of our deepest insecurities and fears, primarily because few of us truly understand how to live anchored in grace. Unfortunately, most of us have had way too much experience with the converse. Living in our profoundly broken world among profoundly broken people, we’ve grown accustomed to others cutting us off, rather than inviting us close, when we fail to meet their expectations. This is especially true for those, like my friend’s daughter, who don’t know Jesus.

This should not, however, be true of you and I. Because here’s the thing—if responding to others with Christ-like love came easily, such interactions wouldn’t leave our watching world confounded. Yet, Jesus, the One who laid His life down so you and I might live, stated without any disclaimers, that others would know us by our love. True, healthy, honest, and growing love.

The type that takes work, humility, incredible bravery, and perseverance. 

In Acts 2:1, the Bible says the first century Christ followers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV). 

Acts 2:42 ESV

This passage may read familiar to you. It did to me, only this morning one word I’d previously skimmed over grabbed my attention. These men and women devoted themselves to one another and growing in Christ. Theirs weren’t casual interactions they engaged in when convenient or conversations felt comfortable. They remained steadfast and diligent, persevering with “intense effort” and at times “despite difficulty.”

No doubt because there were many times when it would’ve been much easier to walk away. Just as it will be for me and you. 

We will often find it easier to:

  • Self-protect and isolate than to deepen our relationships and risk getting hurt.  
  • Feed our pride than to cultivate the humility necessary to break down barriers, resolve conflicts, and heal hurts.
  • Hide behind our well-rehearsed, cheery Sunday morning smiles and slogans than to allow others to see our imperfections.
  • Attack rather than receive, defend rather than hear, and isolate rather than grow.  

But none of those behaviors will bring the relationship depth our souls crave. To the contrary. When we choose to live like the world, we tend to find ourselves in the same lonely and fearful places into which everyone else has fallen. We begin to experience the “beyond-expectations” life Christ promised, however, when we push past the fears and sinful tendencies that keep us in bondage to boldly seek Jesus, His people, and His ways.

Let’s talk about this. When have you experienced determined, steadfast love? To whom might God be calling you to show that type of love? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another.

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon.

I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode:

Freed From Toxic Relationships to Help Others Break Free (with Carolyn Whitney) – Ep. 131 Faith Over Fear

You may have heard someone say something to the effect of, “God will use your pain in your future ministry.” This doesn’t necessarily mean He will ask you to launch an organization or create a program within your social sphere or community, although He may. Rather, this stems from God’s promise to use you to comfort others with the same comfort He’s shown. You, whether that means listening with understanding as someone shares their hurts and struggles or walking beside someone seeking increased freedom. We hope today’s episode speaks to individuals in one of two places in their healing journey: 1) For those still in the thick of pain, hold tight to this—God longs to bring beauty from your pain by first healing you then giving you the strength and desire to help others heal. 2) For those who have experienced some degree of healing, prayerfully consider if God is asking you to walk alongside someone who is hurting or living enslaved. And finally, we hope this episode opens conversation on toxic versus healthy relationships.(Scroll down to find the group discussion questions)Find Carolyn Whitney and her ministry: https://sistersinchristkc.org/our-teamhttps://www.instagram.com/sistersinchristkc/https://www.facebook.com/sistersinchristkcFind Kelly Campbell and Wholly Loved, at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1.What resonated with you most in this episode?2.Have you ever felt like you were living in a "glass house" where things looked good from the outside but where circumstances or emotions felt chaotic, unpredictable, or unsafe, or uncertain? 3.When going through challenging or painful circumstances, how easily do you seek support from others, and what do you think impacts this?4.How would you describe the general health of your support system, and why would you describe it this way?5.What are some ways we can walk with family and friends through their mental health battles while still maintaining healthy boundaries for ourselves (and our children)?6.How can healthy connections with others help one heal from traumatic experiences7.What are some important steps to take when faced with a big transition in your life?8.What is one action step God might be wanting you to take as a result of listening to this episode?
  1. Freed From Toxic Relationships to Help Others Break Free (with Carolyn Whitney) – Ep. 131
  2. Thankfulness in Changing Seasons – Ep. 130
  3. Fighting Anxiety and Fear Through Praise (with Becky Harling) – Ep. 129
  4. When Self-Reliance Leads to Addiction (with Carol McCracken) – Ep. 128
  5. Breaking Free from Generational Dysfunction (with Gina Birkemeier) – Ep. 127

Angry coupleOur response to conflict can either lead to healing and deeper connections or ugliness. I’ve experienced both. Honestly, I’ve caused both. I’ve had times where fear motivated me to remain quiet when I knew God was calling me to speak. I’ve also blurted way too many statements I came to regret, many times moments after I opened my mouth. And I’ve watched God bring about incredible health––in marriages and families, ministries, churches, and communities––through Christ-centered, honest, but difficult conversations.

Whenever we separate truth and love, dysfunction and distrust grow. Plus, we miss a huge opportunity to advance Christ’s message of reconciliation. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert the reconcilation Christ offers “means putting things back into their right relationship again.[1]” Speaking on God’s desires, the authors remind us, in every interaction, “the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”

This is, in part, what it means to act as a peacemaker––someone who actively brings shalom into every interaction. Our Christ-centered interactions also provide tangible examples of our love, commitment, and trust.

When, in our aversion to conflict, we choose self-protection over relational health, our actions speak in ways we likely didn’t intend.

Here are 5 statements conflict avoidance makes:

1. I don’t trust you.

When our fear hinders our communication, we’re in essence demonstrating our lack of trust in the other person. We either don’t trust the relationship to withstand the discussion or we don’t trust the other person to respond well. If this is the case, perhaps the best place to start is with honesty. For example, we could say, “I greatly value our relationship, and I have a fear that I might say something to jeopardize that.” Then see how the person responds.

2. I don’t truly value this relationship.

Unresolved issues tend to lead to bitterness and frustration, which in turn harm our friendships, often more than if we’d had the courage to initiate a difficult conversation.

3. I love myself more than you.

When I shy away from uncomfortable discussions, especially those involving someone else’s behavior, I woman sitting in windowwant to believe I’m doing so out of love for the other person. But most often, self-love is to blame. True, Christ-centered love says, “I’m going to seek your best, even if that upsets you or causes you to leave. I love you enough to risk making you angry.”

4. I choose comfort over your and my long term growth.

I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t always handle challenging conversations well. As a result, I’d much prefer to ignore problems when they arise. But God calls me to love with courage and self-sacrifice. If Jesus, my role model, Savior, and Lord, willingly incurred horrific abuse to bring me freedom and spiritual health and wholeness, then I can embrace personal discomfort, awkwardness, and weakness to love you well.

5. I don’t trust Jesus to actively heal and deepen our relationship.

We all make mistakes. We react in ways we wish we hadn’t and say things we should’ve never voiced. Some situations leave us confused, and in our confusion, we can feel paralyzed. What should we say, how should we say it, and when? When we remain in that confused state, we’re in essence saying we don’t believe Jesus can fill in our gaps and redeem our regrets. We’re saying we don’t believe He remains sovereign over the hearts of man.

Thankfully, we don’t have to handle anything, relational conflict included, on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in us, stirring us to speak as He directs. In everything, He leads all of His children to increased health and freedom.

[1]Corbett, Steve. Fikkert, Brian. “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.” (2009) Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers

If this is an area you struggle with, or simply want to grow in, listen to my latest podcast episode called the Courage to Have Hard Conversations.

You might find this article helpful also: “7 Things You Need to Know When Talking to Difficult People.”