On any given week, BCC Counselors meet with people who are seeking peace with their spouse, seeking freedom from unhealthy attachments, seeking intimacy from disheartening distance, seeking rest from persistent arguing, seeking insight for confusing dynamics.
These are just some of the tricky relational dynamics that we are privileged to speak into on a daily basis. Truth be told, most of us have had some experience with each of these struggles to some extent, but it can be hard to know how to turn them around and begin to experience something healthier.
The truth is you have the ability to make choices that can transform virtually any relationship.
Choose Humility to Admit Your Mistakes
In the counseling office, we often interact with painful relationships where the goal becomes seeking affirmation that they are the “good one.” One person is adamant that they are in the right and the other party is wrong. Pride gives us false confidence that we should tell others what to do because we are likely more right than they are, and we have insight that the other person sorely lacks.
While our perspective of “being superior” may be true for a parent to a young child, in most adult relationships this perspective reflects pride. It also creates interactions with others where we always have to have the last word, where our “facts” are always better, and where our opinions are certainly superior.
Healthy relationships choose to admit mistakes with humility. It’s really hard to be angry and argue with a humble friend or partner.
Choose Courage to Have the Hard Conversations
Arguments or Apathy, which hurts worse? Having hard conversations doesn’t fix everything, but they are essential to have progress towards healthier relationships. In biblical terms, “Speaking the truth in love, to build up” is the descriptor of the call of hard conversations. Hard conversations require courage for a couple of reasons.
First, we have to choose to speak, despite the fact that it may not have gone well before, despite the fact that we perceive we are not a good communicator, despite the fact that ignoring the problem and hoping it would go away seems like the least painful route. God created us to be communicators so we can relate in healthy ways. God is also the source of all truth, and our speech ought to reflect this reality as well.
Lastly, if you approach hard conversations with a written goal (a goal that is not just good for you, but it is also good for your conversation partner) you will transform hard conversations. Too often, hard conversations turn toxic because rather than attacking the problem, we begin to malign and attack the person. Our politics is currently an example of how this can easily occur, where the issues get lost amidst the attack one’s opponent. Healthy relationships don’t ignore problems and seek to have hard conversations, but they focus on the problem and not the personalities involved.
When relationships seek to have patient conversations that attack problems through hard conversations, they will get healthier. It absolutely can start with one person, choosing to bring a new attitude to the fight. Answers that are soft, wise, and reasonable will eventually transform the way two people interact, but someone has to go first.
Difficult relationships can make you feel trapped when you keep getting the same results over and over. Pride and fear are two traps that will keep you from healthier relationships. We overcome them with humility and courage to respond with both truth and love for the other person’s good and for God’s glory.
The hard truth is that you can’t change anyone, only God can change them. You can, with God’s help, influence and represent His heart well. Sometimes people will begin to see God’s heart through you, and even if they refuse to see it, you can experience personal freedom and peace despite the pain of an unhealthy relationship.