John 3:5; Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 5:2; 13:4; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 10:17-18; Colossians 1:18; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; James 1:9-10; 4: 1-6 ; 1 Peter 5:5; Revelation 3:17
"How to Destroy a Relationship!?" Why would we want to talk about this? This may sound like it is way out in left field. Why talk about how to destroy a relationship? Are we not already pretty good at this? Does this subject fit in to how to find and build a better relationship? The answer is, yes. Because, if we know what destroys our relationships, we can be on guard to prevent it, just as we need to know how Satan operates so we can buffet an attack and go through Spiritual Warfare unscarred. It is the same in relationships; we have to know what destroys them so we can guard ourselves and protect others. It is my experience, as a counseling pastor, that most people are very good at destroying relationships, including me. But, what we tend not to be good at is recognizing how and why we do it. We do not realize the subtle ploys that have become habits that imbed like a wedge into each other, thus, pushing others away. In fact, most of us are just too good at taking down good friendships and causing once-good marriages to end in irreconcilable differences, when they were once harmonious and reconciled. How and why does this happen will be one you your great allies to build and keep effective healthy relationships!
There are five key aspects with which we humans come against each other as a defense mechanism in our relationships. These symptoms become our arsenal for attacking others so we are protected from their attack. We use them to be self-protective by creating offensive measures to protect ourselves while destroying others, encompassing simple arguments to total war. These are the root issues from which our behaviors and responses stem.
Relationship Breakdown is Festered by (Proverbs 13:12; Romans 15:5-7; Galatians 6:1-8; Ephesians 4:2, 11-16; 25-32; James 1:19; 1 Peter 1:22-2:10; 4:7-11; 29):
1. Defensiveness! Defensiveness is a weapon that allows you to be negative and not take responsibility for your actions. It permits you to over explain your position to the determent of the other person. You will not be able to listen, see the facts and see your role in the conflict. It projecting blame on someone else and it causes you to be skeptical of others motives and intentions, so you do not see the positive, options or the hope. You will not allow trust to be built, so you defend yourself to the point that you do not have to be intimate. It seems to protect you from hurt.
2. Contempt! Contempt is a weapon that cancels out the other persons value, It declares that they are not worthy of you, so you treat them with arrogance and put them down. It is a defensive weapon to protect your insecurities by claiming others as insecure. So you put them down before they may put you down. This symptom tells you that the thoughts and feelings of the other person are worthless. That way you may think you do not have to reach out or take risks. It is usually rooted in low self esteem not realizing who you are in Christ. This devalues people!
3. Criticism! Criticism is the best way to escalate any conflict. This rotten symptom is a weapon that helps create weapons for the other side. It builds "defensiveness" and "withdraw" armaments in the other person. It is a weapon that makes other weapons. It creates a negative response that keeps escalating back and forth to one another. It can take a minor disagreement and take all the way up the mountain to full blown conflict. This weapon will not allow a ceasefire or solution so the circumstances will get worse and worse. It hurts others before they can hurt or continue to hurt you.
4. Withdraw! Withdrawal is a form of avoidance. This is the unwillingness to solve issues and or explain your feelings. It is not giving up; rather it is a first strike weapon that prevents and disrupts communication. We do this by not listening, not caring to getting up and leaving the person. It is a way to not participate so you can "turn off" yourself during a disagreement.
5. Anger! Anger is a strong emotional reaction because our feelings have been violated, so we exercise our displeasure by provoking others with antagonism and hostility. If you want to destroy a relationship fast and furiously, allow your anger to get the best of you and let it flow, unhindered. Your good relationships will disappear or become totally dysfunctional and you may even end up dead or in prison. This is not God's best plan for you! So, do you have your temper tempered?
What happens when our anger goes un-tempered? It initiates and supercharges the rest of the weapons. We turn it into bitterness, resentment, and hostility. These become evil, rotten fruits when anger is unhitched from our temper and control. They will harden our hearts, and cause us to become people who do not forgive, filled with all of the various defense mechanisms, empowered further as resentfulness, contempt, defensiveness, bitterness, critical nature, and withdrawal become the dominating force of our personality. They kill, they cause wars and hatred, they destroy relationships and society, and, they put an end to our effectiveness in being a reflection of Christ's character and call.
All of these weapons are all formed from our hurt all rooted in our….. Sin! The sin of Pride, causing Anger and betrayal and the cycle of relationship breakdown!!!! Yes, these traits will protect you from hurt for a while, but their end result will bring you much greater hurt to the point of utter despair!
These five weapons grow slowly and mutate, then spread to all areas of the relationship under attack until it becomes a pattern for a life and existence of hurt, bitterness, and anger. Yet, as powerful as these symptoms are, they are not the reason for the relationship breakdowns. They just are the wedge that the swinging sledgehammer of pride, anger, and our personal will finally hits. These symptoms are flowing from the cause that creates the hurt and bitterness, which causes virtually all fights in friendships and marriages. These symptoms, which are so hard to contain and stop, are rooted at one source: our PRIDE. By the way, pride is the quintessential thing God hates the most; see PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION for your proof!
A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue. Proverbs 17:4
Pride combines with our hurt and fears to create our defense- mechanisms. Therefore, our hurts and fears motivate our words and deeds. Thus, as hurting people, we hurt other people. If you think this does not apply to you, consider this: Do you cover-up your frailties by attacking and criticizing others, to throw the dogs off your scent? Are you grateful for what Christ has done or do you take it for granted? If you still think you are immune, then you have a problem-pride! As human beings, we get hurt, we all have fears, and we all engage in defense mechanisms. The difference is that the mature person, the Christian who wants to please God, will do something about it. That something is the seeking of reconciliation and harmony.
What can I do? Pay attention to yourself and how others react to you. When we are focused on seeing the failings, disappointments, corruption, and deceit in others, usually it is because we are filled with it ourselves, and we do not take the Word of God seriously. What if God judged us as we do others? So, the answer is, don't! Don't play these games; relationships are too precious and valuable to destroy them with our whims or hurts. Yet, Christians can be some of the most critical and arrogant people on earth! As Christians, we need to be an example for Him wherever we are, set ourselves above pettiness, and let God remove our pride!
How often do these defense mechanisms take place in your relationships? How often do you personally engage in one or more of these? Defensive, critical, contempt and withdraw. These are all formed from our anger, disappointments, and hurt and all rooted in our-pride. This is a cancer to the living body of relationships. In these negative, dysfunctional responses, we will push God aside and fuel them with our anger and betrayal and thus continue the cycle of relationship breakdown!!!
When we become aware of these cancerous underpinnings we all harbor, we can start to bridle them. In this way, they can be controlled and steered away from the harming of our loved ones and friends. How can I bridle these cancerous emotions and attacks? By knowing who you are in Christ, and by the knowledge that God accepts you in spite of your failures and sin because of His delivered grace for us. This realization helps us in all aspects of relationship building, so we can choose to be deliverers of His grace to others. By being willing to stop the escalation of relationship breakdown through the exchange of our hurt and anger for love, grace, and forgiveness, our lives will be tremendously more content, joyful, and fulfilling.
But, before we get to the healing, we need to realize that all relationships involve emotions. We have a natural tendency to put up our guard to protect us from getting hurt. These guards have weapons of relationship mass-destruction available which can be used from the smallest offence to the biggest betrayal. We will launch a first strike with our weapons of Defensiveness, Contempt, Criticism, and Withdraw often unaware or callused to their effect. We have to understand that our emotional guards involve these weapons. When we start to see as Christ sees, we will realize these weapons are outmoded by His work and His supremacy. We do not need them since all they do is cause destruction; they have no building or equipping power. They just indiscriminately destroy, when Christ calls us to build. Christ gives us care and affection, therefore we have the call to show affection and care for others.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1:18
God calls us to bear each others burdens without letting those burdens break us. By understanding the role of restoring, we can pursue restoration and not the defensiveness of our hurts. We have the tendency to protect our hurts, fears, and wounds from others by attacking them first. In military terms, this is a classic preemptive attack, which is the attack-before-they-attack-us approach. However, in relationships, we are not to be at war in a combative mode; rather, we are to be in a reconciling mode.
If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Paul's point is this; everyone should know better than to sin! Healthy relationships cannot exist in the atmosphere of self-centeredness! When we engage in these behaviors, we are putting down the very people for whom God died on the cross. He gave His life, in agony and pain, to redeem, and yet we find it necessary to put down that same person. We have to see this as heinous. It is unproductive, destructive, and slaps our Lord in His face, saying, in essence, that we know better than He does!
So, what can I do to stop these defense mechanisms-pride and self-centeredness-from ruining my relationships? Start to be aware of how you come across to others. Listen to positive feedback as well as the negative. Ask a friend or pastor for advice, and be willing to listen without engaging in negative attitudes. Realizing that you are engaging in disruptive behaviors is half the battle; the other half is much easier!
Start to consciously replace your negative feedback with positive comments. Start to use complements and be encouraging without faking it. See yourself as a diplomat of Christ and conform your attitude likewise. See others as Christ sees them-as His child and loved by Him. So, when you have a concern or a conflict, slow down, observe your attitude and behaviors, and start to listen to the other person. Then, repeat what they said and give them positive feedback. Seek the effective repair of your relationship and not the escalation of the hurt or anger. Then deal with the concern in a loving way. Place the focus on the situation and not the person, validating them as a person for whom you care while seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.
We do not need to always be defending and attacking others, whether it is a legitimate betrayal from a trusted friend or spouse or a misunderstanding. Why? Because, our true security is in Christ; when we realize this, we can put up with the dysfunction and negativity of others, and reduce our fears so we can pursue relationships and their healing.
Turing from Destroying to Building Healthy Relationships
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12
Our behaviors are reflections of our motives, each one leading to another, as a chain reaction. By cutting the top of the link of the sin chain, we can remove most of the problems we cause, experience, and endure from others in our personal life, church, and even society at large. The inward choice to hold onto dysfunction and anger is murder because one will lead to the other, maybe not literally, but as a destroyer of relationships. And, in God's eyes, relationships are the most important things in our lives-besides Him!
We have a call to keep our relations healthy by being people who are willing to relinquish pride, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. This is essential before we can go to God. We are to seek resolution to problems quickly, as they come up. When we do not, they fester, get worse, and kill the relationship. So, be a person who is willing to reconcile and to solve problems, not escalate them-one who will do all in your power to end them! Do not neglect your motives or the root causes of broken relationships, sin, and the murder of what God has given you.
You can stop the escalation of hurling verbal weapons that destroy relationships. You have the call and the power to stop the misunderstandings, depression, anger, hurt, frustration, and fears. How? By understanding that Christianity is about yielding-yielding to God-and placing Him and others first. Thus, there is no need to hold the high ground in an argument for attack purposes. Rather, surrender your ground for a common peace. This does not mean that you would be a doormat, letting people walk all over and manipulate you. Remember the section on boundaries. This does not mean you are being a coward, rather, a person of maturity! This is about placing Christ first as Lord over all. Life is not always about you; it is always about Him-Christ as Lord!
By being a person who seeks reconciliation, we will avoid needless strife and stress in our lives-especially in the church. How sad it is when secular courts have to go in and resolve deputes between brothers in the Lord! Having an unforgiving attitude is fatal to worship; we cannot truly worship God with a heart of anger, contempt, and bitterness! When we seek to worship Him in that state, it is an extreme insult to Him! This attitude will have lasting consequences into eternity and judgment!
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
What can we do? We need to yield to the knowledge and trust of God's goodness as well as His supremacy and right of judgment. It is imperative that we live what we preach. Being a hypocrite is a disgusting obsession in the face of our loving and gracious Lord as well as in our witness to others! We need to receive the offering of His grace ourselves and be willing and able to give grace to others. We must commit to use His goodness as a guide to how we treat others. We need to feel sorrow for our miss-actions and compassion towards others for theirs (within reason-there is no license to keep on sinning). God is generous with His grace, so we should be generous toward one another and be thankful. Finally, if we refuse to see His goodness and refuse to turn from sin, we are acting with ultimate contempt to our loving Lord! Thus, our relationships will not be healthy!
Remember the importance of integrity; keep your promises, especially to a spouse and child! Remember the place and purpose of humor; it is to lift others up, never to bring them down. It must not be used to cover feelings or as an instrument used to withdraw from others by using jokes instead of real words of communication.
Make the decision and then commit to making your relationships work, especially with a family member or in a marriage. Make sure you expose the positive! Tell someone when they have done something good, especially a child! Stop the escalation of "button pushing" and inciting the other. You have the power in Christ to stop this cascade of relational dysfunction. Remember, you are not responsible for how they treat you; however, you are responsible for how you treat them! You are the bearer of hope-His Hope. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so act accordingly! Of course, if the relationship is too dysfunctional, seek qualified help and do not place yourself in a compromising situation or in danger. Not all relationships will work, and that is OK! The exception is that if you are married, you are called to make it work unless there are biblical grounds not to. You also need to recognize there will be disappointments and setbacks in reconciliation. It takes patience, tact, and a lot of prayer to rebuild from the hurts and fears you may have experienced. Remember that others have them, too!
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. John 13:3-4
This article is an excerpt from the upcoming book, "The Field Guide to Healthy Relationships" The Field Guide to Healthy Relationships
2004 R.J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in