What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1). For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galations 5:14-15) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
These simple statements are key ingredients to healthy relationships. They seem pretty up front and to the point. Yet as a relationship therapist, I know how hard it can be for us to take these simple statements and apply them in real life.
Human beings are masters at explaining and justifying our bad behavior away, or blaming our bad behavior on others. We can see it in the very first argument between man and woman. Man blames Eve and God for his bad behavior, and Eve blames the snake for hers.
Today the same pattern lives itself out in countless relationships. I sit in many sessions where one spouse bitterly spews out how they only behave the way they do because of the way their spouse is treating them, because of their childhood, or they will explain away their bad behavior in a way that makes it seem acceptable to those who listen.
To be fair, sometimes we are indeed reacting to the way we are treated by our spouse, or wounds that were inflicted in our childhood. But as acceptable as these reasons may seem, they are not healing the infection that creeps into a relationship.
We create a lot of damage in arguments where we are “biting and devouring one another.” A more subtle infection is when couples withdraw from one another leaving each other starving for connection.
We are created to be in relationship. Even more incredible is that we are created to heal one another in relationship. Yet the way our society understands relationship leaves many of us yearning for more.
Relationships truly are a dance. When one partner moves the other will have a counter move. When the dance steps involve stomping on toes we end up in a painful dance that wounds one another. If just one person is willing to risk getting their toes stomped on in order to learn a graceful waltz, the entire feel of the dance can turn around.
It is hard to learn the graceful steps in a healthy relationship dance, at times it’s even painful as we have to kill our own pride and our need to be right.
To create healthy dance steps we may need to learn how to bite our tongues so we can listen and then think about our response before we open our mouths. I will confess that as I was first beginning to learn these concepts, I had to bite my own tongue almost in half to keep from speaking up. It was hard and painful but the benefit of learning this skill reaps rewards that continue to grow. Humility is required to harvest a crop of the peace that comes in a healthy relationship.
In short, we all need healthy relationships, but our self reliant natures make it a challenge for us to find the fulfillment of healthy relationships. As we begin to recognize our own shortcomings, and give grace to another for their short-comings, we begin to experience all the goodness of relationship we are created to have. The Bible is the manual to learning how to love others well. It takes more than reading it. We must apply the healing and at times painful truth we find in Scripture before we experience the benefits of a healthy love.
Olive Chapel invites you to come visit us. Our focus is creating healthy relationships within the church. Our services begin at 10:00 EST. David Kenney will be presenting the message on Sunday October 20, and I (Michele Kenney) will be teaching on October 27. We would love for you to join us.