If you came over from Encouragement for Today, welcome!
Today I promised you that I’d share three things to do when someone is destructive or unwilling to change. I also offered a free chapter (actually two!) of my book, The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness.
Is trusting a huge issue for you?
It used to be for me, too.
A long time ago, you kind of got one chance with me and if you blew it, you were out. Later I discovered the power of forgiveness. I acknowledged that people were messy, and that I was a work in progress myself. I also gave myself permission to work through conflict as a healthy alternative, because handling harder situations are a part of loving each other. But that brings up an important question.
What if they aren’t trustworthy?
What if they are destructive to you or your marriage or your faith or your children?
It’s okay to love from a distance.
Loving from a distance keeps the door open for God to work in your heart, while He (and He’s the only one big enough) works in their heart.
What does that look like?
It’s different for each of us, because the dynamics are different. But the one thing that is consistent is that you have not removed yourself from an up close and personal relationship to punish, but to have the healthiest relationship possible due to the reality of the situation.
For example, my friend Karen’s dad was an alcoholic. For a long time his drinking made it impossible to trust him. There were things she couldn’t count on. But rather than choose to hate her dad, she loved from a distance.
She prayed for him.
She let him know that she loved him, while being honest about how she felt his drinking affected their relationship.
And she invited God into those broken and wounded places that her dad couldn’t fill because of his alcoholism.
Later, Karen’s dad became a Christian and a really amazing father. We know that this isn’t always the story. What matters here is that, regardless of her dad’s decision, Karen was able to love her dad with God’s help while she healed. If he had never made a choice to change, she still was transformed by her choice to love from a distance.
Don’t let someone’s else’s choice not to change keep you stuck
It would be wonderful if everyone changed, like you hoped. But what if they don’t?
Years ago I made a choice. Whether anyone else signed up or not, I was going grow. As a mom. As a woman. As a woman of faith.
Sure, it was hard when someone’s choices hurt my heart. It was an invitation to let bitterness and anger settle in. . .
Except I was not defined by anyone else. Not their choices. Not their lack of growth. Not their words. Not their perception.
The only person I could change, with God’s help, was me.
Look for the good
I realize there are really bad people in the world. Right now our world is staggering under brutality and evil that makes me fall to my knees.
But most people are not all bad.
They are broken.
They are hurt. They are carrying burdens and legacies passed down to them. They don’t do better because they don’t know better.
It’s important to look for the good, because when we see people as all bad we might start to see the world through that lens. It makes it hard to trust anyone, even the good guys.
Years ago, I began to look for the good in my past.
And I found it.
It broadened my perspective to include a smile, a well-meaning gesture. Even sweet memories that were overshadowed by the bad.
Looking for the good in the past helped me to look for the good in my current relationships in those more difficult times.
It leads me to questions like this:
- What is their motivation? Is it pure?
- What are they trying to do or say?
- What is their perspective?
- How can I acknowledge that perspective as we work through conflict?
- Am I aware of my own messy places?
- How am I responding?
If their motivation is impure, then we’re back to #1.
If they truly love you and yet their methods are messed up, then that’s something to work on.
Today I know I’m going to hear stories from many of you, and your stories matter. Can I tell you something? If you’ve struggled with trust, trusting again is part of living free. It’s important because we were never meant to live in isolation.
If you are in that place of loving from a distance, then be safe. But don’t let that keep you from discovering what God has for you as you trust Him in the process.
Here’s some resources that might be helpful: