Have you ever been inside an old fixer-upper house? Nails partially stick out, or lay on the ground - rusted, bent. That's how many of our relationships are. They've been tarnished by betrayal - by lies, unmet expectations, cheating, hurtful words, gossip, broken trust, etc. Our friendships, family relationships, and romantic entanglements are all marred by these. No relationship is safe from these.
I don't mean for this to sound so pessimistic, and it doesn't need to be. Just because a betrayal or hurt happens, doesn't mean the relationship is over or even weaker. Sometimes, it's these betrayals (which are more often just misunderstandings) which challenge a relationship to grow. In fact, my guess would be that the strongest relationships are those which have had to ride out the the most, or some of the biggest, "betrayals" by both of those involved.
I think we all recognize the importance of forgiveness. If not, allow me to quickly summarize here: Forgive!
Seriously, no matter what betrayal - no matter how big or bad - we must forgive the other person. It isn't just because God tells us we should. It isn't just because God always forgives us. And, it really isn't even for the peace of the person who hurt us. It's for our own well being. It's to strengthen the love and condition of our own hearts.
However... forgiveness does not mean giving that person another chance to hurt us. You can forgive a person, but still make the decision of whether or not to keep that person in your life. And, let's face it, some relationships are just simply not healthy.
Workable or Trash it?
How do we decide if the relationship is salvageable or if the nail is just too bent and rusted to be of any use within our heart?
1. Is the relationship physically abusive (or, any kind of abusive)
If the relationship is abusive, and the abusive person refuses counseling/change, the relationship cannot be salvaged. I completely understand giving someone a chance... but if you hear the words "I'm so sorry... I love you... I'll never do it again..." and he/she does it again? Forgive, and get out.
2. Is the relationship hurting your relationship with God?
If the wrongs done are tearing you from God, it might be time to forgive and walk away. If the relationship in general is pulling you from God, it is time to pray for guidance, and quite possibly time to walk away.
3. Is the relationship bringing the other person closer to God?
Perhaps, instead of pulling you from God, you're finding your influence to be a positive one on the other person. They're betraying, hurtful, abusive ways are stopping. I'd take this as a sign that perhaps you're right where you're supposed to be. Sometimes relationships aren't for our personal benefit - but for the health and well being of another of God's children.
I realize this is a very condensed list. And, I intended it this way. I had considered those relationships where trust is severely broken - perhaps by a cheating spouse, or a lying family member. But the truth is, even these relationships are fixable, if both parties want to fix it. This is how it is with most relationships..
Don't trash it too quickly!
Too often we see relationships tossed aside too quickly. Marriages only last a few years... or even a few months. We go through friends/significant others more often than we change our socks. It's just so much easier to toss that bent nail to the side than to hammer it out.
But tossing it aside is costly. All it does is keep us with weak relationships. The only way to build strong relationships is to weather out the storms together - to communicate, and apologize, and forgive, and move forward together. The only way to build strong relationships is to make a conscious decision to do these things... to keep to our promises and vows; to continue to love; to continue to forgive; to continue to build.
True - it won't always work. True - there are times when you will have to toss that bad nail out. But God doesn't just toss us out when we fail to meet His expectations. He doesn't give up on His relationship with us. We shouldn't be so eager to give up on others.
The Condemned House series
Did you miss the other posts in this series? Catch up on them now!