One thoughtful reader has posed some excellent questions, which I think point out additional thoughts on potentially unhealthy friendships and relationships. Missy writes:
“I am confused about God’s Love and Favor. If we are all children of God and those I know are trying to live their lives in a godly way, yet see nothing wrong (with how they treat me), but I see something wrong, who is right, and what does God think about it? If I’m the only one who seems to see my suffering at their hands, is my burden really a cross? How do I know if I’m taking things too seriously and overreacting, or am I right in my perceptions? Sometimes I feel like my life is an example of how others should not treat you. It seems like I have this continual reminder of “treat others how you want to be treated” and I do it, but “no one” is reciprocating. Is my perception prideful and self-centered? Do I have an overinflated sense of how I want to be treated? Am I concentrating on the wrong people? How long am I supposed to pine away for those that are done with me? Why am I so attached? It is so hard to let go because it is not how I want to be treated.”
Missy, what beautiful words, and what honest questions about yourself… I think we may be twins seperated at birth I have had the EXACT same questions, and I have needed to answer them recently in order to save my faith and my sanity… Just by the fact that you are asking these questions with the openness that perhaps you are the ‘one with the problem’ shows your humility (in my opinion) as opposed to pridefulness. If you were prideful, you would always assume the other person was wrong and you were always right and not even ask any questions about yourself. And, I might add, you would probably be the one doing the hurting.
You ask “Do I have an overinflated sense of how I want to be treated?” Here is what I would say…. no! You have dignity as a child of God and you don’t deserve to be abused by others. Now, if you choose to sacrificially take beatings for God, and you are getting direction and support to that effect, there may be an exception, however, there is only so much anyone can, and SHOULD be able to take. If you remember from the Gospel, when Jesus’ ‘home town community’ started persecuting Him when He first read at the synagogue, He WALKED AWAY when they attempted to stone Him. It was only when it was the Father’s Will, ONCE, that He allowed Himself to be seized and abused by others (physically). He also was outspoken to those that accused Him in the synagogues (Pharisees) and faught back with wit and wisdom. It was only in the end that He CHOSE to remain silent (as far as His public ministry.) Jesus was and is not a doormat. Neither are Christians. We are “to be cunning as serpants and gentle as doves”… we are “to go out into all nations and spread the Good News” (that would imply speaking truth, loudly, even)… we are to “wipe the dust off our feet to those who don’t accept our words of truth”!!!!! Yes, Jesus even added that curses would be upon the people that reject the message of the Christians! There is nothing doormat about that! BUT, He also said, “those that live by the sword die by the sword” so we are not called to violence and cruelty either, or knocking people over the heads with 2 X 4s. We are called to speak and live the Truth, boldly, for Him, always in charity.
You ask “Am I concentrating on the wrong people?” I say… yes. And so was I. I ‘pined away,’ too… right up until just before I started writing this series, when I decided their chains weren’t worth it. I will be focussing on what I have learned about good and healthy (and holy) friendships in my next posting, so hopefully this can help (not that I am an expert or anything!)
You say “It is hard to let go”…. yes, I completely relate with this too… and I would say this: I can tell you are compassionate and your heart goes to people. I have this same quality, but I also have been weakened by a sense of NOT realizing my dignity before God and a lack of courage in relationships to simply stand up and say ‘stop’ or just walk away. I was always so afraid of hurting others, that I let myself be hurt instead… this is not a good compromise. And while we can gain virtue and God always brings good out of evil, in the end we will end up living a less than joyful life if we let ourselves be knocked around for the wrong reasons… Is letting ourselves be abused self-love? I would say NO. And we are to love ourselves, otherwise we can’t love God, or our neighbor. In the Exhibit ladies I refer to today, all three of them have an issue with self-love. I didn’t mention it in the article, but you reminded me of it… If they loved themselves, they would act completely differently, and they wouldn’t be able to treat others cruelly because they would be thinking “this is not how I want to be treated, so I won’t do it either’…
You bring up such excellent questions, and I thank you for continuing to help me learn on this journey!
Blessings and love, shalimamma