Posted by: Jess | February 2, 2011

When it all breaks down…

What can you do when significant, Christian relationships break down? And so completely you are left baffled as to how things could get so bad seemingly so quickly? As we should all know, we can’t control what other people do; and we can’t control their reactions to what WE do. If you ever go to counseling with your spouse you will quickly find out that the counselor isn’t interested in helping you “fix” your spouse. They are interested in helping you fix YOU! The only people we should be concerned with fixing is ourselves. But what happens when it all goes so horribly wrong?? What then??

There are always two sides to every story. When my kids have a disagreement that becomes a nasty argument that becomes a fight they both are always shouting, “He/She STARTED IT!!!” As they start to recount the story I want to stop them right at the beginning, when one of them inevitably states the little thing that first upped their ire. It wasn’t that big. The other party didn’t even think of it as somehow possibly being irritating or aggressive (or so they claim ;). But then someone took it to the next level and then back and forth it goes; growing in intensity and seriousness until a full blown fight is raging. As the parent, the mediator of this little earth shattering debacle, I find that my job is to help them realize that at any one of those early moments, when the first small insults were exchanged, one or the other of them could have just… let it go. And here in lies the challenge facing all of us in our everyday lives: How much will we let bother us?

I’m kind of an easy going kinda girl. I don’t easily take offense; mostly because I really want people to give ME the benefit of the doubt. I need that because I happen to also be extremely klutzy and impulsive. I will say things without thinking them through and then stake my life on what I just said; even if it was totally stupid and I know it!! I’m stubborn that way I guess and it’s gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. 😉 But I can really have a row with someone and then forget it soon after; not holding onto any particular grudge or hurt, especially if it ends amicably. Arguments don’t bother me as long as in the end I feel that my opinion was heard. Even when they don’t end well, time often softens my feeling about a disagreement and I find I can enjoy the persons company without awkwardness if enough time has elapsed.

But I’ve discovered, rather painfully, that many people are not like this. Some are even so tenacious with remembering slights that they go to extreme measures to keep them at the forefront of their minds. Usually this involves discussing and rehashing those slights over and over and searching for more evidence of their mis-treatment; be it against themselves or others. Even if “the others” don’t know they have been slighted these types of persons feel it is their duty to inform them. Gotta spread that bitterness around, ya know! What is the old saying? …Misery loves company? Yep. That’s it.

Interestingly these types of people are completely blind to their own part in the ugliness. They sit self-righteously by and seem to feel that it is vitally important that they make sure EVERYONE knows that they are the ones in the right and that, by it’s very status, it demands a harolding from the roof-tops. Being right becomes everything to these people!

Actually this reminds me of a certain situation Jesus discussed with His followers:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Jesus had a LOT to say about the Pharisees. He got rather upset with their self-righteous ramblings. They were constantly concerned with what everyone else was doing and very little about themselves. Remember the sawdust and plank analogy? Yep. Jesus was reminding us to stop worrying about every body else and start worrying about own glaring issues.

I had one friend who liked to use her blog to specifically tell people how to live their lives. She preached a very specific lifestyle and used scripture (taken out of context, mind you) to “prove” her rightness about these issues. If challenged, even mildly, she would dogmatically say that the world is completely back and white and that people who say, had their kids in private school, were living opposed to God’s will. I was shocked by this! And since she was an old friend I politely emailed her asking if she might be a little presumptuous thinking that she knows what is best for someone else’s family? She (just as politely… at first) emailed me back and said no. God gives her the right to judge others and it’s even her duty to do so!! I was shocked that anyone would blatantly say that it’s their right to tell people what is right and wrong even down to how they vote or where they educate their children and how many children they should have (and adopt if they can’t have “enough”)! Needless to say, I took a giant step back. I knew there was no way we could have a discussion about this if she didn’t even respect mine and my husband’s right to run our own home the way we felt that the Lord was leading us.  We politely closed out our correspondence with an “agree to disagree” but I was so sad for her and even a little scared for her. Oh, dear… How her attitude must anger the Lord if the way He dealt with the Pharisees is any indication!!

Image how many people must have been subjected to the Pharisees heavy hand of judgment? It’s frightening when people in a leadership position, who hold a level of the law in their hands, not only pass judgement but also bring accusations and threats against you! Pharisees were supposed to represent God and demonstrate His character. Many of us know the disillusionment and pain that comes from personal attacks by Christian leaders. They can leave us robbed of our confidence, joy, and even shake our faith to it’s core.

But as I was saying at the very beginning of this post, we are the ones responsible for what we allow people to make us feel. …at least its where I was going with that. 🙂 Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” and it’s true. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what others are saying about us that we miss out on the joy of living in the warmth of God’s smile. When we look only to Him for our acceptance and guidance we find that His “…yoke is easy and [His] burden is light”! (Matt. 11:30) There is no more understanding Guide, and no more loving Leader that can be found!

From the lessons I’ve learned on the Pharisees I’ve come to an important conclusion: God is the judge; He is not blind and has a plan in every situation. This issue is very near and dear to His heart. When asking the question of what to do when it all breaks down, honestly I believe every situation is unique and there is no clear way for those of us who are NOT God to handle it. 😉

I’ve had many different opportunities to deal with “Pharisees” in my life who sought to control and manipulate me. Each time my husband and I have prayed earnestly about how to deal with it and each time we’ve done things a little differently. But I know that my heart cry is to always love and not judge. And each time I renew again my desire to see the best in everyone and to seek only God’s approval in my life. As I’ve grown more confident in who God has created me to be I’ve also learned to honestly face the struggles and sins in my life; turning those over to Him and allowing Him to change and grow me out of them in His way and timing and as a result I am finding so much joy and freedom in Christ alone!

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