Where are people not permitted to say what they need, how they feel, or what they think?
– those who are literally slaves or who are in concentration camps.
– those in extremely oppressive countries with totalitarian regimes.
– those who are in abusive or dysfunctional relationships/families.
Here are some hallmarks of abusive/dysfunctional personal relationships:
- It is not okay to talk about your negative feelings. Only positive emotions are allowed.
- I am responsible for your decisions, obedience to God, sins, and emotions.
- You are responsible for my decisions, obedience to God, sins, and emotions.
- It is your job to make me happy. If I am not happy, it’s your fault.
- Conflict is unacceptable.
- Disagreement is not allowed.
- You may not ask me questions or confront sin in my life. I can confront you whenever I want to, of course.
- You are not safe here emotionally.
- Your voice is not important to me.
- I love conditionally with strings attached. If you don’t perform, I won’t love you.
- You better put me above everything and everyone else, including God. Pleasing me better be the most important thing in your life.
- I will not respect any healthy boundaries you try to set with me and will be offended if you attempt to have healthy boundaries.
- You are accountable to me for everything you do, think, and say.
- I know what is best for you.
- I am always right and you are always wrong if you disagree with me.
- You should be afraid of my disapproval more than anything or anyone else.
- There is no forgiveness here. I cherish bitterness.
- I expect you to meet spiritual and emotional needs in my soul that really only Christ can meet. I come into this relationship as a black hole of neediness.
Some hallmarks of healthy relationships (these would be the goals as we seek to allow God’s Spirit to refine and sanctify us):
- It is okay to talk about anything and to share all of your feelings about anything – even if they are negative.
- We will work through conflict together. Conflict is inevitable. We won’t always agree. But we will always love each other and work through it as a team.
- Conflict is an opportunity for growth.
- I love you unconditionally.
- You are safe here in every way.
- We are kind to each other.
- We treat each other well.
- Love and respect are abundant here in both directions.
- You are important to me. You are precious and very valuable.
- Your ideas, feelings, concerns, and desires are important to me.
- You are responsible for your own emotions, decisions, obedience to God, and sins.
- I am responsible for my own emotions, decisions, obedience to God, and sins.
- If I am not happy, it is my own responsibility to take care of my emotions and to voice what I need.
- Healthy boundaries are respected and encouraged.
- We each know we can respectfully confront sin in the other’s life when necessary.
- We expect each of us to put God way above anyone else or anything else. Pleasing God is the most important thing in life.
- We know we are all ultimately accountable to God for how we treat each other.
- We are each free to respectfully confront each other about sin in our lives when necessary. We will work together as a team against sin and the enemy.
- We trust that God knows what is best for each of us and we each want to seek Him individually and together.
- We approach each other with humility.
- There is no fear in this family – only love.
- Grace, mercy, forgiveness, and second chances are available here.
- I have Christ on the throne of my heart and He meets the deepest spiritual and emotional needs of my life. I come into this relationship overflowing with spiritual abundance from Jesus.
GOD’S “MOST EXCELLENT WAY” OF LOVE – I Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
RESOURCES (please carefully evaluate any author’s words, including mine, against Scripture!):
Boundaries – by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
How to Handle Toxic and Critical People – by Leslie Vernick free PDF download
http://www.leslievernick.com – She has a number of Christian books about handling difficult relationships, including marriage