If you look at nature, you’ll notice something. Anything that involves life always involves a growth process. Babies don’t pop out as adults and the seeds you plant in your garden don’t bear fruit for months.
It’s the same with relationships. No matter what stage a relationship is in, it’s within a process of either living or dying. Life comes out of growth. Death comes out of stagnation.
It’s OK to have wounds, but…
There was a married couple where the husband recently retired and entered into a mental and emotional funk. The conditions of retirement were predisposed to trigger something in him and he basically just shut down.
The wife was kind of at a loss for how to help him and it’s been a major strain on their relationship. But you really can’t help someone that’s not ready and willing to deal with their issues. She was at her wits end.
It’s OK to have wounds. Everybody does, and life inevitably brings conditions everyone’s way that are unexpected that poke at those wounds. If it doesn’t seem like someone you know and are in relationship with is wounded, you just haven’t been with them in the right conditions yet.
But what’s not OK for relationships to flourish is to act like you’re not wounded. It’s also not OK to stand still and do nothing about it.
A relationship red flag is when someone does one or both of these things. They either posture like nothing can phase them (which is fake news) or they posture like they are who they are and everyone just has to deal with it.
When either of these are the case, beware. Their life will be spent pursuing many things, but healing isn’t going to be one of them.
The illusion that normal people exist
When relationships are new, we tend to carry an illusion into them. It’s the illusion that normal people exist. This especially happens with people we seem compatible with from the start.
But just like the illusion of water in the desert, the closer you get, the clearer the situation becomes. Everyone has wounds from the past and they are going to be expressed someway somehow at some point as any relationship progresses.
Think about Peter. He lived with the Lord of the universe in the flesh for 3 years, seeing miracle upon miracle. At the most important time in the life and ministry of Jesus, what did he do? Peter denied Him.
Once would be bad. But 3 times?!?! After investing his life into Peter, Jesus encountered a major flaw in him in this moment. Peter was a people-pleaser.
This is a classic example of a brilliant point that John Ortberg makes in his book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them…
We are predisposed to do wrong when the conditions are right.
Your personal space is sacred
With that being said, we all have to be gracious and kind to one another (Gal. 6:1-5) as we spur one another on in the maturation process (Heb. 10:24-25).
But it would be wise not to pursue close relationships with people that won’t deal with their past wounds. When you notice people that don’t make it a life priority to do this, think twice about allowing them into your personal space.
Now this doesn’t mean to avoid them. We still need to love and support them. But how we do that is important to consider. They shouldn’t be allowed to come into the close personal space of your life until they are working on growing. Also, they should only stay there if they continue working on growing.
As someone once told me when I was going through funk and felt paralyzed…”it’s time to put your big boy pants on and do something about it.”
When people don’t do the work to grow and change, their relationships don’t grow and change. Relationships that don’t grow and change aren’t life-giving to those in them, and isn’t that the point of relationships?